Russia vows to strengthen Syrian air defences

A Kremlin spokesperson says the US missile strikes have damaged relations between Moscow and Washington

Russia vows to strengthen Syrian air defences

File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with his national security team at the Kremlin, 31-03-2017. Image: 02-04-2017.

Updated 15:10

Russia has strongly condemned a US missile strike on a Syrian airbase saying the attack had violated international law and damaged relations between Moscow and Washington.

The Russian military has vowed to help Syria strengthen its air defences following the airstrikes on an airbase outside of Homs.

The Syrian state news agency said the attack had killed nine civilians – including four children – in villages surrounding the base.

Russian defence ministry spokesman, Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov took aim at US military capability saying the “combat efficiency of the US strike was very low” - adding that only 23 of the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles that were launched had reached the targeted airbase.

He told the Associated Press that a “complex of measures” will shortly be enacted to strengthen Syrian air defences and help “protect the most sensitive Syrian infrastructure facilities.”  

He said the strike destroyed six Syrian air force MiG-23 fighter jets which were under repairs, but didn’t damage other Syrian warplanes at the base.

He added that the base’s runway had also been left undamaged.

Guaranteed protection

Mr Konashenkov said Russian facilities in Syria are reliably protected by cutting-edge air defence weapons.

He said the S-400 and Pantsyr air defence systems offer a "guaranteed protection" to Russian warplanes stationed in Syria's Latakia Province.

The Russian military spokesman was speaking after the US fired 58 missiles into Syria in retaliation against a chemical weapons attack in Idlib Province that killed at least 80 people.

US President Donald Trump said he had ordered a "targeted military strike on an airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched."

He called on world leaders to help end what he described as the “slaughter and bloodshed” in Syria

The decision to launch the missile strike has been welcomed by many western powers – including the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Australia.

Russia – a long-time ally of the Assad government – immediately condemned that attack with Russian President Vladimir Putin calling it an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law."

Russia has backed the regime since September 2015, using its veto power in the UN Security Council on several occasions to prevent sanctions against Damascus.

The Syrian government has denied being behind that attack and the Russian government had warned against apportioning blame until an investigation had been carried out.

Russian forces in Syria

US officials said Russian forces were informed ahead of the attack - which did not target sections of the base where Russian soldiers were believed to be present.

The country’s embassy in Damascus told the RIA news agency it had no information as yet on whether any Russian citizens were hurt in the strike.

President Putin met with the Russian Security Council this afternoon to discuss the Russian Air Force presence in the region.

"The meeting expressed deep concern about the unavoidable negative consequences stemming from the aggressive action for the fight against global terrorism," the council said in a statement.

The UN Security Council will meet at 4:30pm this afternoon to discuss the air strikes.