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Russia says US helped drones target Russians

October 25, 2018

A US military aircraft took control of 13 drones over Syria in January and tried to redirect them in an attack on a Russian airbase, a senior Russian official has claimed. Russia's military managed to thwart the attempt.

Boeing P-8 Poseidon US Navy plane
A US Boeing P-8 Poseidon plane taking off from Australia in 2014Image: picture-alliance/epa/R. Wainwright

The US military helped coordinate an attempted drone attack on Russia's Hemeimeem base in Syria, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin claimed at a summit in Beijing on Thursday. The alleged attack took place in January 2018.

Fomin's statement marks the first time Russia has directly accused the US of targeting Russian forces.

The Russian official said that a coordinated group of 13 drones was directed toward the base while a US Poseidon-8, a high-tech reconnaissance plane, was cruising over the Mediterranean. Once the drones "reached our barrier of radio-electronic interference," they were switched to manual navigation, according to Fomin.

"This manual control is not conducted by just some villager, but by a normal, modernized Poseidon-8," Fomin added. "It took on manual control."

Read more: Russia starts drone surveillance missions in Syria

Fomin did not say who had launched the drones before the the US plane took over their direction.

'This needs to stop'

Russian forces managed to shoot down seven of the drones and then hack and take control of the remaining six, landing them safely. 

Alexander Fomin
Russia's General Alexander FominImage: picture-alliance/Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation/V. Savitskii

"And this needs to stop — in order to avoid high-tech weapons falling into terrorists' hands and having well-equipped terrorists, it is necessary to stop strengthening them," Fomin told delegates at China's Xiangshan security forum.

The three-day summit in Beijing is organized by the Chinese defense ministry, with delegates expected from 79 countries.

Moscow has repeatedly accused the US of supplying and arming jihadist groups fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad.

A question for Donald Trump

Islamist rebels often use drones to target Russian forces in Syria. Russia's defense ministry has claimed that rebel drones appear to be basic, but are equipped with modern navigation and ordinance delivery systems. This suggests that "a country possessing the technology to produce such systems supplied them to international terrorist groups," the ministry said, according to remarks quoted by Russia's RIA Novosti agency.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the information was "very alarming," but added only the Russian military could provide details.

Putin might raise the issue when meeting US President Donald Trump in Paris on November 11, Peskov told reporters.

The US Pentagon did not immediately comment on Fomin's claims.

The news of the alleged US-coordinated attack comes some two months after Russia lost a high-tech plane in Syria in an incident Moscow says was caused by Israel. Russia responded by pledging to supply Syrian forces with S-300 aerial defense systems.

dj/jm (AP, Reuters, Interfax, dpa)

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