MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has denounced the U.S. strike against a Syrian government airbase as “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said Friday it plans to bolster and increase the effectiveness of the air defense system in Syria after the attack.
“In order to protect the most sensitive objects of the Syrian infrastructure, a system of measures to bolster and increase the effectiveness of the Syrian armed forces’ air defense systems will be implemented,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement carried on state media.
Russia earlier announced it would suspend an October 2015 agreement aimed at minimizing risks of in-flight incidents between Russian and U.S.-led-coalition aircraft.
As a result, the risk of a direct aircraft collision between the U.S. and Russia had “significantly increased,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
In a regular call with reporters, Peskov added it was “indisputable” that the U.S. airstrike on Syria “was carried out for the benefit of ISIS and other terrorist organizations.”
President Donald Trump ordered the strike against the airbase from which a chemical weapons attack was launched earlier this week, U.S. officials said.
In an earlier statement, the Kremlin said Syria “has no chemical weapons,” pointing to reports by United Nations inspectors.
“Vladimir Putin believes that complete disregard for factual information about the use by terrorists of chemical weapons drastically aggravates the situation,” it said in a statement.
“This move by Washington has dealt a serious blow to Russian-U.S. relations, which are already in a poor state.”
The Kremlin added that Putin sees the latest U.S. military action as “an attempt to distract from the mounting civilian casualties in Iraq.”
Russia is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally and has provided the military might behind his continuing grip on the country, which plunged into civil war six years ago.
The strike dashed any hopes for a U.S.-Russia anti-terror coalition in Syria, Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev, who heads the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, said.
“And it started so well, what a shame,” he wrote Friday on Facebook.
“In one way or another, Russian cruise missiles continue to strike terrorists, and American ones strike government forces which, in fact, lead the war against terrorists.
“I’m afraid that given such an approach, the desired Russian-American anti-terrorist coalition in Syria, so often talked about since Trump rose to power, will repose in the Lord before it has the chance to be born.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia would suspend the 2015 agreement aimed at minimizing risks of in-flight incidents.
“U.S. actions further destroy Russia-U.S. relations,” she added. “If earlier it was explained using the need to fight against terrorism, now it’s an obvious act of aggression against the sovereign state of Syria.”
Russia was warned of the attack before it took place, in accordance with deconfliction policies between the U.S. and Russia over military activities in Syria.
Nevertheless, Russia did not choose to use surface-to-air missiles systems in place in Syria that are “fully capable of intercepting cruise missiles if they so choose to.”
“(This) implies a degree of tacit Russian consent to the strikes,” Chance said.