Senior Kremlin officials struck back Thursday at U.S. claims that Russian airstrikes in Syria were targeted at opposition forces instead of Islamic State militants and warned journalists not to be victims of “a war of disinformation.”
While Russian officials have provided little detail on the location of their airstrikes, they have insisted that Islamic State and other Islamist militants were the targets.
Pentagon, State Department and White House officials on Wednesday cast doubt on the Russian claims, saying the extremists weren’t known to be in control of the towns and villages hit north of Homs earlier in the day.
In an interview with France Info Radio, Russian Ambassador to France Alexander Orlov cited a Defense Ministry statement from Moscow as saying Russian air support for Syrian ground troops destroyed positions of Islamic State and Al Qaeda-affiliate Nusra Front, “two terrorist organizations recognized as such.”
Orlov disparaged the air campaign waged against Islamist militants in Syria for the past year by the United States and several European and Middle East allies, saying that thousands of airstrikes had been carried out without the approval of the U.N. Security Council or the government of Syria and “Islamic State is still there.”
“There has been a certain war of disinformation for some time and everyone is trying to discredit each other,” he said of the accusations in Washington that Moscow was acting to deal a blow to rebels fighting the beleaguered forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. “We are acting transparently.”
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced what he called “distorted and false information” being circulated about the intent of Russia’s intervention in Syria.
“It is necessary to be very, very careful in regard to all statements – there is much distorted information and a lot of false information,” Peskov said of reports that civilians had been killed in the Kremlin’s first air attacks in Syria. “Don’t become a victim of perverse information.”
Russia’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, also cast the U.S. reports as misguided.
“Do not listen to the Pentagon about Russian strikes – ask the Russian Defense Ministry,” Lavrov told journalists at the United Nations late Wednesday, referring them to an official report issued in Moscow on the Russian air operations.
Russian warplanes “delivered pinpoint airstrikes on eight facilities of the ISIL terrorist group on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov told reporters in Moscow, using an acronym for Islamic State. He added that 20 attack sorties were flown by Russian forces on Wednesday.
“As a result of the airstrikes, depots with ammunition, armaments, petroleum, oil and lubricants, and accumulations of military hardware were hit,” Konashenkov said. “The command control centers of ISIL militant formations in the mountains have been completely destroyed.”
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