Jamie Seidal — News Corp Australia Oct 26, 2018
FIRST Russia blamed the French for shooting down of one of its surveillance planes earlier this year. Then the Israelis. Now it’s accusing the US of co-ordinating a drone attack by Syrian rebels.
Russian deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin told a summit in Beijing overnight that the alleged incident took place in January.
It’s the first time Moscow has directly accused the US of targeting Russian forces.
Fomin said a flight of 13 drones had attempted to attack Russia’s Khmeimim base in Syria. It has been the central facility supporting Russian aircraft and helicopters sent there in 2015 as part of Moscow’s intervention to save President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
“At the time, a US Poseidon-8 reconnaissance aircraft had been patrolling the Mediterranean for eight hours,” the state-run TASS news agency quotes Fomin as saying.
Once the rebel’s drones “reached our barrier of radio-electronic interference,” they were switched to manual navigation, according to Fomin.
“This manual control is not conducted by just some peasant, but a proper P-8 Poseidon equipped with modern technology,” Fomin added. “It took on manual control.”
Moscow has previously stated Khmeimim’s air defences had managed to shoot down seven of the drones and take over control of the remaining six.
“Only a technologically advanced country has access to such tools; they cannot be made in the Syrian desert,” Fomin told delegates at China’s Xiangshan security forum.
“This needs to stop — in order to avoid hi-tech weapons falling into terrorists’ hands, and having well-equipped terrorists, it is necessary to stop strengthening them.”
Cheap — often homemade — drones have become a regular feature in the Middle Eastern turmoil, used by rebels and Islamic State to deliver explosives to remote targets.
Photos at the time showed captured fixed-wing remote-controlled aircraft.
Russia says the drones used in the attack on Khmeimim were simple, but well equipped with “modern navigation and ordinance systems”.
This indicated “a country possessing the technology to produce such systems supplied them to international terrorist groups,” the defence ministry said.
“Any suggestion that US or coalition forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible,” the Pentagon has previously stated.
The United States has been supplying Syrian pro-democracy rebels fighting the regime of dictator al-Assad for several years. However, the Russian and Iranian backed Syrian government forces have recently managed to retake most rebel-held territory.