Europe

Russia strongly warns US against striking Syrian army

  • FILE In this Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 file photo Russian defense ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia. Konashenkov strongly warned the United States against striking Syrian government forces and issued a  thinly-veiled threat to use Russian air defense assets to protect them.  (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

    FILE In this Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 file photo Russian defense ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia. Konashenkov strongly warned the United States against striking Syrian government forces and issued a thinly-veiled threat to use Russian air defense assets to protect them. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)  (The Associated Press)

  • This Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows a body under the ruble of a destroyed building following an airstrike, at Bustan al-Basha neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. The U.N. on Wednesday released stark satellite images showing the most recent destruction of Syria's embattled northern city of Aleppo, pounded by Syrian and Russian airstrikes since the collapse of a U.S.-Russia brokered cease-fire two weeks ago. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

    This Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows a body under the ruble of a destroyed building following an airstrike, at Bustan al-Basha neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. The U.N. on Wednesday released stark satellite images showing the most recent destruction of Syria's embattled northern city of Aleppo, pounded by Syrian and Russian airstrikes since the collapse of a U.S.-Russia brokered cease-fire two weeks ago. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • This Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 photo, provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows Civil Defense workers from the White Helmets carry a body as they walk on the rubles of a destroyed building after airstrikes hit the Bustan al-Basha neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. The U.N. on Wednesday released stark satellite images showing the most recent destruction of Syria's embattled northern city of Aleppo, pounded by Syrian and Russian airstrikes since the collapse of a U.S.-Russia brokered cease-fire two weeks ago. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

    This Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 photo, provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows Civil Defense workers from the White Helmets carry a body as they walk on the rubles of a destroyed building after airstrikes hit the Bustan al-Basha neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. The U.N. on Wednesday released stark satellite images showing the most recent destruction of Syria's embattled northern city of Aleppo, pounded by Syrian and Russian airstrikes since the collapse of a U.S.-Russia brokered cease-fire two weeks ago. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)  (The Associated Press)

The Russian military on Thursday strongly warned the United States against striking the Syrian army, noting that its air defense weapons in Syria stand ready to fend off any attack.

The statement underlined high tensions between Moscow and Washington after the collapse of a U.S.-Russia-brokered Syria truce and the Syrian army's offensive on Aleppo backed by Russian warplanes.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said any U.S. strikes on areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar Assad's government could jeopardize the lives of Russian servicemen.

He said Moscow was worried by media reports alleging that Washington was pondering the possibility of striking Syrian army positions.

"I would recommend our colleagues in Washington to carefully weigh possible consequences of the fulfillment of such plans," Konashenkov said.

Russia responded with dismay to the U.S.-led coalition's air raid on Syrian army positions near Deir el-Zour that killed 60 Syrian soldiers on Sept. 17, rejecting the U.S. explanation that the attack was a mistake.

Konashenkov said "we have taken all the necessary measures to prevent any such 'mistakes' with regard to Russian servicemen and military facilities in Syria."

He said the range of Russia's S-300 and S-400 air defense missile systems deployed to Syria would be a "surprise" to any country operating its aircraft over the country. Konashenkov added that the Syrian army also has various Soviet- and Russian-built air defense missile systems, which have undergone modernization over the past year.

Since Russia has launched its air campaign in Syria in support of Assad's forces a year ago, the Russia and the U.S. militaries have maintained contacts to prevent any midair incidents between Russian warplanes and the aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition in the skies over Syria.

Konashenkov warned, however, that the Russian military won't have time to use the hotline if it sees missiles on their way to targets in Syria.

"It must be understood that Russian air defense missile crews will unlikely have time to clarify via the hotline the exact flight program of the missiles or the ownership of their carriers," he added.

In an apparent hint at the U.S. stealth aircraft, he added that any "dilettante illusions about stealth planes could collide with disappointing realities."

The Russian military announced Tuesday that a battery of the S-300 air defense missile systems had been sent to Syria to protect a Russian facility in the Syrian port of Tartus and Russian navy ships off the Mediterranean coast.

Tartus is the only naval supply facility Russia has outside the former Soviet Union.

The deployment has added more punch to the Russian military force in Syria, which already includes long-range S-400 missile defense systems and an array of other surface-to-air missiles at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia.

Russia has conducted an air campaign in support of Assad since Sept. 30, 2015, saving his army from imminent defeat and helping it win key ground.