Russia’s ministry of defence said in a June 19 statement that its air and ground defenses will track, target and intercept Coalition aircraft in areas in which Russian aircraft operate in Syria.
The statement also said that the established de-confliction line was suspended.
“In areas where Russian aviation conducts combat missions in Syria, any flying objects – including international coalition aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles – discovered west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian air and ground defenses as air targets.”
Russian MoD statement, Grasswire translation
First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Defense and Security Frants Klintsevich told Sputnik that Russia will not automatically destroy aircraft in Syria and that decisions will be made on individual basis.
In a June 19 statement, a spokesperson for the Coalition told Grasswire that “Coalition aircraft continue to conduct operations throughout Syria, targeting ISIS forces and providing air support for Coalition partner forces on the ground.”
The statement noted that as a result of “recent encounters involving pro-Syrian Regime and Russian forces,” it has taken “prudent measures to re-position aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrew given known threats in the battlespace.”
This was first reported by Anna Varfolomeeva:
— Anna Varfolomeeva (@AnnaEngV) June 19, 2017
Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis told Fox News that the US does not seek conflict with anyone other than Islamic State in Syria, but the US “will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened.”
The Russian moves come after a US F/A-18E shot down a Syrian Su-22 jet near Raqqa on June 18. The Coalition said the Syrian aircraft had dropped bombs near SDF fighters.
The Russian statement said that the Coalition did not use “existing channels of communication” to prevent air incidents in Syrian airspace, and that Russia considers the actions of US command as “an intentional failure to fulfil its obligations within the Memorandum on prevention of incidents and providing of flight security during the operations in Syria dated October 20, 2015.”
In its June 18 statement, the Coalition said its aircraft initially “conducted a show of force,” after which “the Coalition contacted its Russian counterparts by telephone via an established ‘de-confliction line’ to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing.”
According to the Coalition, it was then that the Syrian aircraft “dropped bombs near SDF fighters” and “in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet.”
The spokesperson for the Coalition told Grasswire that it is “always available to de-conflict” to ensure the safety of its crews and operations. “The de-confliction line has proven effective at mitigating strategic miscalculations and de-escalating tense situations,” the spokesperson said.
While not discussing specifics, the spokesperson said the Coalition “de-conflicts its counter-ISIS ground and air operations” and “utilizes the de-confliction line with the Russians and de-confliction zones to ensure the safety of forces operating in an increasingly congested and complex Syrian battlespace.”
Russia previously suspended the de-confliction line in April after the United States fired cruise missiles at a Syrian air base in response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria. It was restored on May 8.
Lavrov says all military action must be co-ordinated
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said all military action in Syria must be co-ordinated with the Syrian government, and that Syrian sovereignty must be respected.
“…any actions on the ground, and there are many participants, including those who carry out military operations, must be coordinated with Damascus,” Lavrov said.
“We call on the United States and all others who have their forces or their advisers on the ground [in Syria] to ensure coordination in our work,” Lavrov said, adding that de-escalation zones were a “possible” option.