US, Russian in diplomatic row after reported coalition airstrike
US says it was targeting what it thought were ISIS militants
Hours after US-led coalition airstrikes reportedly killed dozens of Syrian troops, the US and Russian ambassadors to the United Nations chastised each other outside an emergency Security Council meeting.
The strike occurred Saturday in an eastern part of Syria that is not a part of a delicate and nearly week-old ceasefire. The US military said it was targeting ISIS militants and if it hit Syrian troops, it was an accident.
Russia and Syria said the strikes prove Washington and its allies are sympathetic to ISIS.
The Russian military said 62 Syrian soldiers were killed near Deir Ezzor Airport, according to state media. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 83 and said at least 120 soldiers were wounded.
Russia’s permanent UN representative, Vitaly Churkin, questioned the timing of the strikes, two days before Russian-American coordination in the fight against terror groups in Syria was to begin.
“I have never seen such an extraordinary display of American heavy-handedness,” he said, after abruptly leaving an UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria. Churkin was upset with US ambassador Samantha Power, who lambasted Russia’s support of the Syrian regime to the media outside the meeting while he was speaking.
Power angrily denounced the Russian call for the UN meeting as a stunt.
Power said “even by Russia’s standards, tonight’s stunt – a stunt replete with moralism and grandstanding – is uniquely cynical and hypocritical.”
If US-led coalition airstrikes did hit Syrian forces Saturday, it was unintentional and Washington regrets any loss of life, she said before proceeding to list atrocities she said the Syrian regime has perpetuated during the five-year civil war.
“Since 2011, the Assad regime has been intentionally striking civilian targets with horrifying, predictable regularity. They have besieged civilian areas, prevented life-saving aid from reaching people who are starving to death, and dying of illnesses that could be treated with basic medicine.”
Whether the diplomatic squabbling will cause the ceasefire to fall apart is unclear.
Report: At least 62 killed
The US military said the coalition thought it was hitting ISIS militants, but hours later said the airstrike may have struck Syrian soldiers.