As expected Russia has reacted fiercely to the overnight US airstrikes on eastern Syria, which marked the first military action of the Biden presidency, calling out what the Kremlin said is an "extremely outrageous" violation of sovereignty.
"We strongly condemn such actions and call for Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity to be unconditionally respected," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a press briefing.
Other Russian officials, including a prominent senator for foreign affairs, Sergei Tsekov, blasted the American aggression as an "extremely outrageous" move, saying further, "Now, if someone struck a blow on U.S. territory, what would that look like? They strike at the territory of a sovereign republic without the consent of Syrian leadership."
But perhaps the most interesting detail is that Russia's defense ministry was forewarned about the strike shortly before it happened. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed as much - saying the warning came a mere "minutes" before they commenced.
"This sort of warning — when strikes are already underway — gives (us) nothing," Lavrov said according to Moscow Times.
Given that over the past years since Russia's invitation by the Assad government in 2015 to assist in defeating the jihadist insurgency there's been an increasing number of rival warplanes operating over Syria's skies, the Pentagon and Russia have maintained a military-to-military hotline in order to avoid inadvertent escalations. Presumably the Russians were "warned" via this method of communication.
While little has ultimately been confirmed, regional media outlets and monitors have cited over 20 killed in the strike, which the US claims was on "Iranian-backed militias" operating in Syria.
More details of how the strike unfolded have kept rolling in throughout the day Friday...
Just in: Two F-15E Strike Eagles dropped 7 precision-guided munitions in the strike against Iran-backed militias in Syria last night, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirms. Strikes at the Albukamal border crossing completely destroyed 9 facilities & partially destroyed 2 more.— Jack Detsch (@JackDetsch) February 26, 2021
"Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kata'ib Hezbollah and Kata'ib Sayyid al Shuhada," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
"The operation sends an unambiguous message; President Biden will act to protect American coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both Eastern Syria and Iraq."
I condemn meddling in Syria’s civil war. I also condemn attacking a sovereign nation without authority.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) February 26, 2021
What authority does @POTUS have to strike Syria?
Perhaps someone should ask his @PressSec today? https://t.co/nLxbZNLx4J
These strikes are unconstitutional and dangerous. There’s no general authority for a president to launch airstrikes, and President Biden hasn’t claimed they were necessary to stop an imminent attack. Our Constitution demands he get approval from the representatives of the people. https://t.co/zE21bZQzlk— Justin Amash (@justinamash) February 26, 2021
But Biden himself has remained silent on the strike, which has angered a handful of Congress members questioning his basis for authorizing the unilateral attack.
Damascus for its part called the attack "cowardly" and said it will surely "escalate" the crisis in the region. "Syria condemns in the strongest terms the cowardly US aggression on areas in Deir Ez-Zor near the Syrian-Iraqi border, which is inconsistent with international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Syria warns that it [this move] will lead to consequences that will escalate the situation in the region," the country's foreign ministry said, as cited in state-run news agency SANA.