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Russia to track coalition planes in Syria, halts US hotline

Moscow says any flying objects west of Euphrates river is a target by Russia’s air defence

Image Credit: Reuters
A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Mediterranean Sea.
Gulf News

MOSCOW: Russia’s defence ministry on Monday condemned the US downing of a Syrian plane and said it would now track all coalition flights west of the Euphrates river, while suspending its use of a military hotline for avoiding incidents in Syrian airspace.

Moscow accused the US of failing to use the established communication hotline to warn Russia about the downing of the plane on Sunday.

“The command of the coalition forces did not use the established communication channel for preventing incidents in Syrian airspace,” the defence ministry said.

As a result, it now “ends cooperation with the American side from June 19 based on a memorandum for prevention of incidents and ensuring safety of air flights during operations in Syria, and demands a careful investigation by the US command” of the downing.

“Any flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, discovered west of the Euphrates river will be tracked as aerial targets by Russia’s air defences on and above ground,” it said.

Russia had also said in April that it was suspending its use of the Syria hotline after US forces struck a Syrian airbase, but the communications had continued.

The US military confirmed a US F-18 Super Hornet shot down Sunday a Syrian SU-22 after it dropped bombs near the US partner forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), aligned with the Americans in the fight against the Daesh group.

The United States and Russia, which has been providing an air cover for Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad since 2015 in his offensive against the Daesh group, have a standing agreement that should prevent in-the-air incidents involving US and Russia jets engaged in operations in Syria.

A top Russian diplomat condemned the shooting down of the jet as an act of “aggression.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agencies on Monday that the downing was akin to “helping the terrorists that the US is fighting against.”

Ryabkov asked: “What is this, if not an act of aggression?”

— Agencies

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