5 Oct 2016

Russia sends missile system to Tartus base in Syria

8:48 am on 5 October 2016

Russia has confirmed it has sent an S-300 air defence missile system to its naval base in Syria's port of Tartus.

Defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the purpose of the system was to guarantee the security of the base from the air.

The move comes amid growing tension with the West. On Monday, the US halted talks with Russia on trying to co-ordinate air strikes against jihadists.

A ceasefire brokered by Washington and Moscow collapsed last month.

Smoke rises after a residential area in the Darat Izza neighbourhood of Aleppo was bombed, apparently by Russia.

Smoke rises after a residential area in the Darat Izza neighbourhood of Aleppo was bombed, apparently by Russia. Photo: AFP

"Let me remind you that the S-300 is a purely defensive system and poses no threat to anyone," Maj-Gen Konashenkov said.

"It is unclear why the deployment of the S-300 caused such alarm among our Western partners."

The spokesman said the system was similar to one earlier deployed at sea on the cruiser Moskva.

On Monday, the US said it was suspending talks with Russia over Syria, accusing Moscow of having "failed to live up" to its commitments under the ceasefire deal.

Washington blamed Russia and the Syrian government for intensifying attacks against civilians, including rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo.

US state department spokesman John Kirby said Moscow and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops had been "targeting critical infrastructure such as hospitals and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need, including through the 19 September attack on a humanitarian aid convoy".

Moscow strongly denies involvement of its own or Syrian planes in the deadly aid convoy strike, and says the incident was caused by fire on the ground and not by an air strike.

Hundreds of people, including children, have died since government forces launched an offensive to take full control of Aleppo after the week-long truce lapsed.

Responding to the suspension of the talks, Russia said it regretted the US move, accusing Washington of trying to shift blame for the collapse of the ceasefire.

"Washington simply did not fulfil the key condition of the agreement to improve the humanitarian condition around Aleppo," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

She also said that the US had failed to divide jihadist groups in Syria from the moderate opposition.

Russia and the US were due to convene in Geneva to try to co-ordinate air strikes against jihadist groups, but American officials were told to return home.

The US also said that it would withdraw personnel "that had been dispatched in anticipation of the possible establishment of the Joint (US-Russian) Implementation Centre".

However, the two sides would keep talking about counter-terrorism operations in Syria to avoid unnecessary clashes.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs