Russian Foreign Minister Defends Airstrikes in Syria – New York Times
UNITED NATIONS — The Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, told a packed room of reporters on Thursday that Russian warplanes had carried out airstrikes in Syria against rebel targets for the second straight day.
Asked by reporters from at least three news organizations, including The New York Times, exactly whom the Russians airstrikes were aimed at, Mr. Lavrov was not specific.
“If it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it’s a terrorist, right?” he said.
It was part of an animated exchange with reporters in which Mr. Lavrov defended Moscow’s strategy and reissued longstanding Russian criticism of American policies. Here is a recap of the issues he pressed during the 52-minute session.
Graphic | Mapping the Battle for Syria: Russia Continues Airstrikes on Rebel Areas Maps show that most of the areas hit by the airstrikes are controlled by rebel groups and that they are not in Islamic State territory.
Whom Exactly Is Russia After?
“I would recall, we always were saying we were going to fight ISIL and other terrorist groups,” Mr. Lavrov said, referring to the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Asked about reports that Russian warplanes had hit United States-backed rebel groups fighting the Syrian government, Mr. Lavrov shot back: “You know something I don’t know?” He added, “We targeted ISIL-associated depots, armaments and sites.”
He demurred when he was asked if those “other terrorist groups” in Russia’s sights included rebels supported by the United States and its allies.
“I don’t know if the U.S.-led coalition targets only terrorist organizations,” Mr. Lavrov said. “Then, we do the same.”
How Far Will Russia Go?
Does Russia plan to expand its military operations to Iraq, where the Islamic State also operates?
On this, Mr. Lavrov was unequivocal and tart.
“No, we are not planning to expand our airstrikes to Iraq,” Mr. Lavrov said. “We were not invited. We were not asked. We are polite people.”
His “not invited” comment was a reference to longstanding Russian criticism of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, as well as the Obama administration’s decision a year ago to …Read More