Moscow slams US-led action in Syria as ineffective

Moscow (AFP) – Russian military officials on Tuesday slammed US-led coalition action against Islamic State jihadists in Syria as having had “less than zero” impact, and claimed that a US air strike killed 20 Syrian civilians this month.

Russia’s involvement in the war-torn country since September 2015 had “changed the course of fighting terrorism in Syria,” said chief of general staff Valery Gerasimov.

He listed the successes of Russia’s operation to shore up the forces of long-time ally Bashar al-Assad, saying Moscow had carried out 71,000 strikes.

But “our colleagues from the US-led anti-terrorist coalition have conducted considerably fewer strikes, only about 6,500, over the past two and a half years of the operation against IS in Syria,” he said.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking during a televised meeting, said the US-led coalition had made no impact.

“As much as we needed the support of the international coalition — the effect of which has been less than zero — I regret to say that we did not see this support, and this required us to exert all of our energy” on Syria, he said.

Gerasimov said the coalition strikes never had “any significant results” and said they had caused a “considerable number of deaths among civilians and government troops.”

Besides a misguided strike on Syrian troops near Deir Ezzor last September, which the Pentagon admitted was a “regrettable error,” Gerasimov said a US plane had bombed Syrian civilians on January 3.

“An American B-52 bomber struck Sarmada in the Idlib province without warning the Russian side. This is in an area where the ceasefire applies,” he said, referring to the truce brokered by Russia and Turkey that went into effect on December 30.

“As a result of the strike, over 20 civilians were killed,” Gerasimov said.

Washington said last week it had killed about 20 Al-Qaeda militants in air strikes in northwestern Syria.