Russia has claimed the majority of missiles fired overnight in a joint air strike on Syria by US, British and French forces were intercepted – despite the Western countries’ hailing of the operation as a success.
Moscow said on Saturday the Syrian government had been able to shoot down 71 of the 103 Cruise missiles used in the attack with their Soviet-era air defence systems.
The weapons were launched from ships and manned aircraft in a targeted attack on Syria’s main chemical weapons facilities, according to the US defence ministry.
However, allied forces have disputed the Russian account of events, with France saying there was no indication any of the 12 missiles its military fired during the attack were intercepted.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday morning the air strike had been “a highly successful mission”, while US Marine Corps General Joe Dunford said targets identified by the three nations had been “struck and destroyed”.
However, Russia’s ministry of defence claims none of the rockets launched entered areas where Russian air defence equipment was protecting military facilities in Tartus and Hmeimim.
Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi, of the Russian military’s general staff, said the attack had not caused any casualties and Syrian military installations had only suffered “minor damage”.
Syria air strikes: US, UK and France joint military action
Col Rudskoi said Syrian forces used ground-to-air missile defence systems with “high efficiency”, shooting down all of the rockets aimed at four key Syrian air bases.
He added that Russia had refrained in the past from providing Syria with its state-of-the-art S-300 air defence missile systems, but could reconsider its decision following the strike.
Russia’s claims a defence system designed in the 1950s had taken down allied missiles could be interpreted as a swipe at President Donald Trump, who had boasted on Twitter Russia would be unable to down “nice, new and smart” US weapons.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has condemned the strike, launched in response to a suspected poison gas attack that killed dozens of people in Douma last week, as an “act of aggression” that will exacerbate humanitarian catastrophe in the war-torn nation.
Mr Putin added that the strike had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations.”