Russia Defends Syria Airstrikes – Voice of America
Russia has rejected charges that its airstrikes in Syria were aimed at targets other than Islamic State militants, as it prepares for military talks with the U.S. to avoid possible clashes in the war-torn country.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists in New York that such reports are unfounded rumors. Regarding reports that some of the strikes had hit civilians, Lavrov said he had no information.
He spoke after a Wednesday meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said U.S. and Russian militaries will hold talks as soon as possible, maybe Thursday, to avoid encountering each other in Syria.
Smoke rises after airstrikes by military jets in Talbiseh, a city in western Syria’s Homs province, where Russia launched airstrikes for the first time, Sept. 30, 2015. The image was made from video provided by Homs Media Center and authenticated by AP.
Doubt about targetsAt the Pentagon Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Russian airstrikes in Syria hit areas that “probably” did not contain Islamic State.
“It does appear [the strikes] were in areas where there were probably not ISIL forces,” Carter said, referring to an alternative acronym for the IS group.
An unnamed Pentagon source told VOA that the extremist group is concentrated in the cities of Raqqa and Aleppo and the eastern city of Deir al-Zour. In contrast, many fighters and other opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are in Homs.
“By deduction, we can tell the strikes are not anti-ISIL,” the source said.
Likewise, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in New York there were “signs” that the Russian raids did not target the Islamic State group.
“As we understand, these weren’t zones that were controlled by Daesh [Islamic State],” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group. He called for the targets of the Russian raids to be verified.
‘War of disinformation’
Russian officials insisted their warplanes were hitting at the same extremists targeted by the United States and contradicted American criticism that its military failed to coordinate the airstrikes, describing the allegations as a “war of disinformation.”
Alexander Orlov, the Russian ambassador to France, said Moscow’s intervention came only after a year of airstrikes by the U.S. and its partners failed to dislodge Islamic State extremists, and predicted that Syria could be ready for “free elections” …Read More