Kremlin accuses U.S. of drone attack on Russian air base in Syria

Drone employment threatens to upset delicate cease-fire agreement in nearby Idlib

A U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (photo credit: DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI/REUTERS)
A U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft
Russia’s deputy defense minister Aleksandr Fomin accused a US airplane of manually controlling 13 drones that attempted to attack Russia’s Khmeimim air base south-east of the city of Latakia in Syria. The surprising allegations were made at a plenary session of the Beijing Xiangshan Forum on Thursday. A Russian diplomatic source elaborated on the comments, alleging that some Syrian terrorists in Idlib are being used by the US to create instability in northern Syria.
According to a report at TASS, Russia’s news agency, the official said that thirteen drones have “moved according to common combat battle deployment, operated by a single crew.” He linked their movements to the presence of an American Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plan patrolling in the Mediterranean Sea. He alleged that as the drones approached the sensitive Russian air base, the Russians used electronic countermeasures against them. The drones then began to use “manual guidance,” which he said could not have been done by local Syrian “villagers,” but was in fact done by the Poseidon-8 “which has modern equipment.” The drones were destroyed, according to Fomin.
“This should be stopped as well, in order to avoid fighting with the high-technology weapons of terrorists and highly-equipped terrorists it is necessary to stop supplying them with equipment,” Fomin said. He went on to note that in January, Syrian rebel groups had first used a large number of drones “in the attack on the Russian Khmeimim air base and the Russian naval base in Tartus.”
He said the latest attack was thwarted as Russia downed seven drones and “took control” over six others. Moscow’s evidence is based on the view that the technology necessary to coordinate the drones came from a “technologically advanced country.” Russia warned against a repeat of the incident.
The report comes on the heels of new satellite images from ImageSat International, which showed the presence of the S-300 systems Russia has supplied Syria in the wake of downing of the Russian IL-20 in September during an Israeli air strike on Syria. Russia blamed Israel for creating the events that led to the downing, even though Syrian air defense shot the Russian plane down.
The recent news of the drones is one of many allegations in Russian media over the years that has sought to link the US to extremist groups. For instance in March, April and June, Sputnik news, which is close to the Kremlin, claimed the US had evacuated Islamic State fighters and commanders in Syria using helicopters.
This is a way to spread rumors in the region that the US is working with ISIS, even as the US leads a 70-nation coalition against ISIS. Russian sources have previously accused the US of working with the Nusra front, or al-Qaeda in Syria. Alleging that the US was supplying technology to Syrian rebels of extremist groups in Idlib would be in line with the previous accusations.