Kremlin response to military strike against Syria: ‘Significant damage to U.S.-Russia ties’

Moscow [Russia], Apr. 7 : In its first public response to the U.S. military strike on the Syrian Government's al-Shayrat airbase in response to Tuesday's chemical weapon attack, the Kremlin has issued a strong statement condemning the attack as "aggression against a sovereign nation." Moscow said the strikes had been carried out on an "invented pretext" and claimed the Syrian army did not have chemical weapons.

"President Putin regards the U.S. attacks on Syria as an aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law, and under a trumped-up pretext at that," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday, Sputnik International reports.

"Putin also sees the attacks on Syria by the US as an attempt to divert the international community's attention from the numerous casualties among civilians in Iraq.

The fact of the destruction of all chemical weapons stockpiles has been recorded and confirmed by the OPCW, a specialized UN unit.

At the same time, in Putin's opinion, total disregard for the use of chemical weapons by terrorists only drastically aggravates the situation," he added.

He also said the strikes would do "significant damage to U.S.-Russia ties" and created a "serious obstacle" to creating an international coalition to defeat the ISIS.

Vladimir Safronkov, Russia's deputy UN ambassador, asserted that the consequences of these operations would be on the conscience of those who came up with these plans.

"The authors of these plans should stop and think what military operations in Iraq, Libya, and other countries led to.

All the consequences will be on the conscience of those who came up with these plans." State news agency RIA quoted Viktor Ozerov, head of the defence and security committee at the Russian Upper House of Parliament, saying the U.S.

strikes could undermine the fight against terrorism. Ozerov also said Russia would call for an urgent meeting of the UN security council. The RIA news agency also cited Yury Shvitkin, deputy head of the Russian Lower House of Parliament's Defence Committee, as saying that the United States was using the Islamic State militant group as a tool for its own geopolitical interests.

This comes ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visiting Moscow next week. He is expected to meet with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, The Guardian reports.

Earlier, the Pentagon confirmed it used a hotline for minimising the risk of aerial combat between U.S.

and Russian jets in eastern Syria to alert Moscow of the strike against the Syrian Government. "Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. US military planners took precautions to minimise risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield," Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said.

"We are assessing the results of the strike. Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat airfield, reducing the Syrian government's ability to deliver chemical weapons.

The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated," he added, citing "the strike was a proportionate response to Assad's heinous act and that it was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again." Hours after launching the military strike, Trump called on all 'civilised nations' to stop the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.

He also asserted that Assad "choked out the lives of innocent men, women and children." "Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.

It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.

There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention, and ignored the urging of the UN security council," he said.

"Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically.

As a result the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilise, threatening the United States and its allies.

Tonight I call on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types," he added.

On Trump's orders, U.S. warships launched between 50-60 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syria Government airbase where the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks were based, U.S.

officials said. Trump had famously said the chemical attack on Syria's Idlib province affected his deeply and tranformed his thinking about the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Dozens of people, including at least ten children, were killed and over 200 injured as a result of asphyxiation caused by exposure to an unknown gas on Tuesday.

The death toll is said to be at least 67, according to al-Diab, while the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported it to be 58.

The High Negotiations Committee claimed the death toll could be as high as 100 with up to 400 injured.

Source: ANI