Note from the blogster: We have to be careful when relating stories read in the MSM. Who knows who is telling the truth?
Reblogged from www.theguardian.com
Defence attache called to Moscow to clarify ‘inaccurate’ newspaper reports concerning RAF rules of engagement in Iraq
Russia’s defence ministry has summoned the British defence attache over reports in Sunday newspapers claiming that RAF pilots were given licence to shoot down Russian jets in Iraq if threatened.
The reports in the Daily Star on Sunday and the Sunday Times were described by the UK Foreign Office as inaccurate. The report said RAF Tornado fighters launching airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq were using missiles designed for aerial combat.
The British embassy in Moscow confirmed that the defence attache had been asked to clarify the UK’s position and had visited the Russian ministry of defence in Moscow on Sunday.
According to a British government source, Russia accepted the explanation.
A Foreign Office spokesperson in London said the defence attache had expressed concern over Russia’s Syria policy during the meeting: “The Russian government sought clarification over inaccurate newspaper reports concerning RAF rules of engagement in Iraq. The defence attache reiterated the British government’s concerns about Russia’s military operation in Syria, including targeting legitimate opposition groups, using unguided weaponry and leading to large numbers of civilian deaths.”
In London, the Russian ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, said Moscow had urgently requested an explanation from the Foreign Office.
He said: “The very premise of a potential conflict of UK and Russian combat aircraft over Iraq is incomprehensible. It is known that Russian air force does not take part in strikes against Isis targets in the said country. At the same time, RAF does not participate in the anti-Isis coalition strikes in Syria. The question arises, what is the goal of such a provocative media leak? Whose morale are they meant to raise?”
The Daily Star Sunday, which claimed the story as an exclusive, said British pilots have been told to take drastic action if fired upon by Russians during missions over Iraq and that it was just a matter of time before there was a deadly confrontation with Russian planes
The Star added that RAF Tornado jets will be equipped with the Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile – a supersonic weapon which can blast any aircraft out of the sky.
The Sunday Times appears to have followed up the story.
An RAF spokesman said: “There is no truth in this story.”
A defence source said that RAF planes flying in Iraq can carry air-to-air missiles but they do not in Iraq and there is no intention to do so. The RAF only conducts surveillance over Syrian air space at present but these are carried out by Reaper drones. RAF surveillance planes also monitor events on the ground in Syria but they do so from positions outside Syria.
Russia has not ruled out airstrikes in Iraq if they are requested by the Iraqi government, but so far is only operating in Syria.
Yakovenko also complained that Britain had not provided intelligence to Russia on the location of Isis’s infrastructure in Syria, despite repeated requests. Western countries have expressed alarm at the Russian campaign in the country. President Vladimir Putin has said the goal is to target Isis, but the strikes appear mainly to have targeted rebel groups fighting
Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The Russian strikes came after Putin addressed the UN late last month and called for a global coalition against Isis. Just two days later, Russian planes carried out their first attacks.
Kommersant Dengi, a financial magazine, estimated the potential cost of Russia’s Syria commitments to be €1bn (£740m) a year.