UPDATE - Russian president slams Syria airstrikes

US makes already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria even worse, says Putin


By Elena Teslova

MOSCOW (AA) - President Vladimir Putin on Saturday strongly condemned the U.S.-led joint airstrikes on Syria, where Russian military personnel remain present to support the Assad regime.

In a written statement published on the Kremlin official website, Putin said: "Through its actions, the U.S. makes the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria even worse and brings suffering to civilians.

“In fact, the U.S. panders to the terrorists who have been tormenting the Syrian people for seven years, leading to a wave of refugees fleeing this country and the region.

He said the group of western countries “neglected” the fact a mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) came to Syria to investigate the alleged chemical attack, according to the statement.

"History will set things right, and Washington already bears the heavy responsibility for the bloody outrage in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya," it said.

Russia will convene an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss "the aggressive actions by the U.S. and its allies".

The U.S., U.K. and France jointly launched strikes targeting the Assad regime's alleged chemical weapons research center near Damascus, a chemical weapons warehouse and a command center linked to chemical weapons located west of Homs, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford said earlier at a joint news conference with American Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

- 71 missiles intercepted

Separately, speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Head of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff Sergey Rudskoy said the missiles had not been launched at locations where Russian military advisers or Russian assets were in place.

"According to preliminary data, a total 103 cruise missiles, including Tomahawks were fired. Syrian air defense systems, which have as a basis Soviet-made air defense systems, successfully repelled air and sea strikes. 71 missile intercepted," Rudskoy said.

Preliminary data shows there are no casualties among civilians and Syrian servicemen, facilities, hit by the U.S.-led coalition were abandoned long ago, he said.

Russian air defense systems were not used to intercept missiles but were put in operational readiness, they identified all missile launched from the sea and air, he added.

Regarding the incident, he said Russia could rethink its decision about S-300 delivery to Syria and return to the negotiating table.

Later, the Foreign Ministry called the airstrikes an "act of intimidation".

The U.S.-led airstrikes caused significant material harm to civil infrastructure, the ministry said in a statement.

These airstrikes are an act of intimidation meant to prevent the OPCW experts to establish the truth, according to the statement, published on the ministry official website.

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