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RUSSIA reacted to US cruise missile strikes on the Shayrat air base near Homs yesterday by cutting a hotline intended to prevent incidents between the two countries’ warplanes over Syria.
Further upping the ante, the Russian Defence Ministry vowed to help strengthen Syrian air defences.
Russia has deployed dozens of cutting-edge warplanes, together with S300 and S400 air defence batteries at its Hemeimeem base in the coastal province of Latakia.
It also has a strategically important naval outpost in the port of Tartus, which is protected by air defence assets.
US officials accused Russia of failing to ensure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s compliance with a 2013 deal to destroy chemical weapons, but Damascus insists that the death toll at Khan Sheikhoun was caused by jihadist nerve gas supplies.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “President Putin believes that the US strikes on Syria represent an aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext.”
Moscow suggested later that just 23 of 59 cruise missiles had reached the base, destroying six Syrian Mig 23 jets but leaving the runway intact.
A Pentagon official insisted that all but one of the 59 Tomahawk missiles had struck their intended targets, hitting multiple aircraft and hardened air shelters and destroying the fuel area.
Mr Assad’s office called the US raids “reckless” and “irresponsible” and a continuation of an “ongoing dirty war against our people.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the US bombing was “dangerous, destructive and violates the principles of international law.”
He warned it would “strengthen terrorists.”
Shortly after the US attacks, Isis death cult fighters launched two assaults on Syrian army defences in the Palmyra area, resulting in a fierce two-hour battle.
Shayrat military airport is among the most important anti-Isis installations due to its proximity to the Palmyra and Deir Ezzor fronts, where the Syrian army has had recent successes.
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