Russia Appears to Threaten U.S. Aircraft in Syria

Russia’s defense ministry is threatening to treat U.S.-led coalition planes in Syria as targets if they fly west of the Euphrates River, according to a statement posted on social media by the ministry. The threat was made a day after the U.S. military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday.

The ministry said it also cut the deconfliction line with the U.S.-led coalition following the incident.

Coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said they would continue to conduct operations throughout Syria to target the so-called Islamic State, wherever needed, despite the apparent warning. “We’ll continue to provide support for our coalition partners and our coalition partner forces are on the ground.”

He could not confirm the Russians had discontinued use of the phone line.

“We are always available to deconflict with the Russians,” said Dillon in comments to The Daily Beast from Baghdad. “It’s proven useful in the past, useful in de-escalating situations in the past. We remain available to use it in future,” he said.

Russian officials in Washington, D.C., declined to comment.

U.S. Central Command said Sunday that a Syrian jet had bombed its Syrian Democratic Forces allies south of the Syrian town of Tabqah, triggering the shootdown.

According to a statement, the U.S. military had asked Russia via the deconfliction line to warn the pro-regime forces to back off ahead of the incident, but they’d continued to attack. The Russian defense ministry claims the U.S. did not use the deconfliction channel with Russia before shooting down the Syrian warplane. — Kimberly Dozier