Russia said on Tuesday that a U.S. decision to ease restrictions on arming Syrian rebels had opened the way for deliveries of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, a move it said would directly threaten Russian forces in Syria.
Moscow last year launched a campaign of air strikes in Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad and his forces retake territory lost to rebels, some of whom are supported by the United States.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the policy change easing restrictions on weapons supplies had been set out in a new U.S. defence spending bill and that Moscow regarded the step as a hostile act. Russia calls US move hostile
“In the administration of B. Obama they must understand that any weapons handed over will quickly end up in the hands of jihadists,” she added, saying that perhaps that was what the White House was counting on happening.
The U.S. decision was a direct threat to the Russian air force, to other Russian military personnel, and to Russia’s embassy in Damascus, said Zakharova.
“We therefore view the step as a hostile act.
Zakharova accused the Obama administration of trying to “put a mine” under the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump by attempting to get it to continue what she called Washington’s “anti-Russian line.”
The Obama administration has in recent weeks expanded the list of Russians affected by U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.
Trump, during his election campaign, said he was keen to try to improve relations with Moscow and spoke positively about President Vladimir Putin’s leadership skills.