US Military: Claims that we’re on combat missions with Russia are ‘rubbish’

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Russian ground staff members work on a Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jet at the Hmeymim air base near Latakia, Syria, in this handout photograph released by Russia’s Defence Ministry October 22, 2015.
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REUTERS/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via Reuters

MOSCOW (AP) – The Russian Defense Ministry says its warplanes have flown first combat mission in Syria with US-led coalition aircraft.

In a statement, the Defense Ministry also claimed that the Russian command center received targeting coordinates via a “direct line” from the US-led coalition headquarters for ISIS locations in al-Bab, Syria.

The idea of Russian and US jets carrying out joint air operations over Syria would mark a drastic change. The two nations have been backing opposite sides in the country’s civil war, and Russian and US jets have previously come close to having confrontations in the air.

Samuel Oakford, a contributor to Airwars, has tweeted that a spokesperson for the US-led coalition has told him that Russia’s claims of joint aerial operations in Syria were “rubbish … propaganda.” And a statement from the US Department of Defense says that it “is not coordinating airstrikes with the Russian military in Syria.”

It is plausible that the aircraft carrying out joint-operations with the Russians belonged to coalition partner Turkey. Defense contractor Daniel Trombly has tweeted that Russian sources claim the Kremlin’s jets flew with Turkish aircraft over Syria. And Russia and Turkey have previously carried out joint-operations in al-Bab outside of the US-led coalition.

And Michael R. Gordon, a national security correspondent at The New York Times, tweeted that this could all be Russian spin centered around the emerging joint-aerial operations between Turkey and Moscow.

Ankara and Moscow have moved steadily towards each other since the failed coup in Turkey in July 2016. The two nations, along with Iran, are currently sponsoring peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan between various Syrian rebel groups and the Assad government.