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© Michael Fiala / Reuters

Four Western coalition warplanes were spotted over the Deir az-Zor area in Syria on December 6, when a Syrian Army camp came under attack. No Russian warplanes were in the region, says the Russian Defense Ministry.



“Russian aircraft were not on a mission in that area. All our flights in Syrian airspace are coordinated with air traffic control and the General Staff of the Syrian government’s armed forces,” Major General Igor Konashenkov, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said, adding that Russia always informs the US about the time, altitudes and routes of its aircraft in Syrian airspace.



Pentagon officials said that on December 6, American aircraft were operating in that area, but striking a target some 55 kilometers away from the [affected Syrian] installation is true to an extent. But it’s not the complete truth, Konashenkov stressed.

“Two pairs of warplanes from two other countries, members of the US-led international anti-ISIS coalition, were operating in the Deir ez-Zor area on the day of the attack,” Major-General Konashenkov said. 

“If they were not involved in that airstrike, than why are the Pentagon’s representatives, as leaders of the anti-ISIS coalition, hushing up the presence of their allies aircraft in the Deir ez-Zor region on December 6? Isn’t it because the [anti-ISIS] coalition air force gets all the information on Islamic State targets in Syria from the Pentagon?” General Konashenkov asked.

“I’m sure, very soon we’ll learn who really inflicted the airstrike on the Syrian troops, as soon as the Syrian authorities make public the results of the investigation of that incident and the type of munitions used in the airstrike,” the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman said.

Damascus says the airstrike against Syrian troop positions was carried out by the US-led coalition.

Konashenkov reported that according to the Syrian General Staff, the airstrike on the Syrian Army camp was inflicted on December 6, between 19:40 and 19:55 local time (+2 hours GMT).

An airstrike on a field camp on 168th Brigade of 7th Division of the Syrian Army left four serviceman dead and 12 injured. It also destroyed three APCs and four vehicles bearing 12.7mm heavy machine-guns.

The incident is the first of its kind since the coalition started to bomb Syria more than a year ago, though the US-led alliance continues to deny it carried out the airstrike.

An anonymous US military source told Reuters on Monday that Washington is certain the airstrike was carried out by the Russians.


RELATED

Turkey detains & deports Russian journalists investigating Daesh oil trade reports

Russian journalists preparing an investigative report into Ankara’s alleged involvement in the oil trade with ISIS have been detained and deported from Turkey. Moscow strongly condemned the treatment of the Rossiya 1 TV crew, demanding explanations.

“We strongly condemn the illegal actions of the Turkish authorities,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “Such an attitude towards the media is absolutely unacceptable.”

On Monday, the press crew of the TV program ‘Special Correspondent’, headed by Alexander Buzaladze, were detained in southeastern Turkey by authorities in civilian clothes. The journalists were preparing an investigative report into the alleged smuggling of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) oil into Turkey.

The trouble for the Rossiya 1 TV crew started only once they arrived at the border, Buzaladze said after the deportation. He told Russian state-owned channel Vesti that while the crew worked in Istanbul and Ankara they had faced no opposition from the authorities.

But as soon as they and tried to film close to the Turkish-Syrian border the crew was “blocked [by] the Turkish security forces” leaving them no time to even “get the camera out.”

The Russian crew was arrested in Hatay province bordering Syria as they were on their way to the neighboring province of Gaziantep. According to Buzaladze, there the journalists wanted to film “the border itself, military hardware, people that work at the border, and the border crossing.”

Turkish authorities were first of all concerned “whether we had a camera,” Buzaladze says.

“The first thing they wanted to know [was] if we had a camera. The camera was left in the luggage compartment, locked in a case. Despite this, they took our documents, we were taken to the police station, later we photographed, fingerprinted, brought to the doctor for a medical examination to confirm that we are in a sane state, and that we are alive and well,” the journalist said.

The crew was later informed by the Turkish side that they were being deported. At the same time, authorities failed to explain the reason behind their move, Buzaladedze notes. The Russian journalists were escorted by police to the airport and put on a plane back to Russia.

Throughout the entire incident the Turkish authorities refused to cooperate with Russian diplomats on the ground. The Russian Foreign Ministry wants to know the real reasons behind the detention of the Rossiya 1 crew, and remains curious as to what “rules” were violated by the Russian journalists.

“The Turkish authorities refused to give explanations to representatives of the Russian Embassy in Turkey who got in touch with the crew shortly after its detention,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. The group was deported apparently under the pretext of its members having violated laws for foreign journalists working in Turkey.

The lack of a clear explanation, forces the Ministry to speculate that the journalistic investigation might have uncovered something which Turkey would rather not share with the world in light of Turkish-Russian tensions following the shooting down of the Russian Su-24 bomber last month.

“One gets the impression that Ankara is scared that correspondents of the Rossiya 1 TV channel may throw a spotlight on facts about the illegal activities carried out in the Turkish-Syrian border area [that] the Turkish government would prefer to keep in the shadow[s],” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

According to Rossiya 1 TV channel, the journalists arrived in Turkey on an assignment “to make a package on what is actually happening on the border between Turkey and Syria, and to clarify the situation with the traffic across the border of militants and illegal oil tank trucks.”

The scandal over alleged oil profiteering on the part of Turkey follows the downing of the Russian Su-24 bomber by Turkey in Syrian airspace amid the ongoing campaign against ISIS oil infrastructure on the Syria-Turkey border. Russian President Vladimir Putin described the act as “a stab in the back” by terrorist supporters and accused Turkey of involvement in the illegal oil deals with IS.


SOURCES:
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RT
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