Russia says it's concerned about bombing of Syrian army camp

Posted at 9:33 AM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-08 11:59:58-05

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's Foreign Ministry voiced concern Tuesday about the reported bombing of a Syrian army camp, without addressing a U.S. claim that Russia was responsible for the incident.

The Syrian government blamed aircraft from a U.S.-led coalition for targeting the army camp in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour on Sunday night, killing three Syrian soldiers and wounding 13. The U.S. denied the claim, and a senior U.S. official military said Monday that Washington was "certain" it was a Russian airstrike that hit the camp. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

Without commenting on the U.S. claim, Russia's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said it has "serious concerns" about reports of the coalition strike in Deir el-Zour. It said the incident was rooted in the U.S.-led coalition's reluctance to coordinate with Damascus on its campaign against the Islamic State group.

The ministry also mentioned a coalition strike in Syria's province of Hassake that reportedly involved civilian casualties.

"These incidents show that the situation on the front against the IS in Syria and Iraq is exacerbating," the ministry said, adding that the Turkish military's deployment to a base near Mosul in Iraq without Iraqi government sanction has added to the tensions.

"We consider such presence unacceptable," the ministry said.

Moscow's relations with Ankara have been badly strained over Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane at the Syrian border. Turkey said it shot down the plane Nov. 24 after it violated Turkey's airspace for 17 seconds despite repeated warnings. Russia has insisted the warplane had stayed in Syria's airspace.

Russia has responded by deploying long-range air defense missiles at its air base in Syria and introducing a slew of economic sanctions against Turkey.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed Turkey's complaint about a sailor on board a Russian navy vessel who was pictured on its deck with a portable air-defense missile while the ship was cruising across the Bosporus.

Turkey denounced the incident as a provocation and summoned the Russian ambassador to protest. Zakharova responded Tuesday by saying that the Russian crew had the right to protect its vessel. She insisted that the action didn't contradict the Montreux Convention, which sets international rules for using the Turkish straits.

On Tuesday, Russia's Interfax news agency reported that the Rostov-on-Don, a Kilo-class Russian submarine equipped with long-range cruise missiles, has deployed to the eastern Mediterranean near the Syrian shore.

A U.S. defense official said the submarine was involved Tuesday in the latest wave of Russian attacks on targets in Syria. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said at least 10 cruise missiles were launched from Russian surface ships in the Caspian Sea and at least one missile was fired by the submarine. He said Tu-22 bombers flying from southern Russia were also involved.

The official said the targets and the results of the airstrikes were not yet clear, adding that Russia notified the U.S. in advance that it would be carrying out the attacks.

The Russian Defense Ministry hasn't yet provided any information about Tuesday's airstrikes.