If Trump wanted to provoke the Kremlin - an odd decision considering all the daily "press coverage" that the Kremlin controlled the president - he has achieved just that: Russia said it will reinforce Syria's air defences and, as reported previously, is sending a missile carrying warship to the eastern Mediterranean in response to a US cruise missile strikes on a Syrian government airbase.
The Russian ministry of defence said in a statement that "to protect key Syrian infrastructure a range of measures will be taken reinforce and improve the effectiveness of the Syrian armed forces air defence." The announcement came as the Admiral Grigorevich, a cruise missile carrying frigate, passed through the Bosporus en-route to Russia's Syrian navy base at Tartus.
Also on Friday Russia announced it had halted its air safety agreement with the US, meant to avoid "air incidents" with the US over Syria, saying US air strikes had caused “considerable” damage to Moscow-Washington relations. The memorandum, signed in October 2015, was designed to avoid clashes in the crowded airspace over Syria, with each side giving the other warning over planned strikes.
The defense ministry also said that six MiG-23 fighter jets were destroyed in the US missile strike on a Syrian airfield in Homs province, but the runway remained intact. The strike on the Shayrat airfield in Syria’s Homs Province destroyed a material storage depot, a training facility, a canteen, six MiG-23 aircraft in repair hangars and a radar station.
Two Syrian servicemen are missing as a result of the US attack on an airfield in the country, while four were killed and six were injured extinguishing the flames, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Friday. "According to the information of the leadership of the Syrian airbase, two Syrian servicemen went missing, four were killed and six received burn injuries during the firefighting," he said.
The runway, taxiways and the Syrian aircraft on the parking apron remained undamaged, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said in a statement. The ministry described the combat efficiency of the strike as “quite poor.”
“On April 7, 2017, between 3:42am and 3:56am Moscow time, two US Navy destroyers (USS Porter and USS Ross) fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayrat airfield in Homs Province, Syria, from an area near the Island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea.
“According to our sources, only 23 of them reached the Syrian airbase,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said, adding that the points of impact of the other 36 cruise missiles remain unknown.
The ministry also slammed the US actions as “a gross violation” of the memorandum of understanding signed by Moscow in Washington back in 2015 to prevent flight incidents in Syrian airspace.
All justifications for the strike are “groundless claims,” the ministry continued.
"The administrations of the United States are changing, but the methods of unleashing wars have remained the same since Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya. And again, the pretext of aggression is not an objective investigation, but allegations, fact manipulation, showing photos and pseudo-vials at international organizations," Konashenkov said.
“Russia made an earlier statement that the Syrian forces did not use chemical weapons. We are waiting for clarification from the US on undisputed – as they claim – evidence that it was the Syrian Army that deployed chemical weapons in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.”
The ministry also pointed to the events that followed the strikes, a large-scale offensive against the Syrian Army carried out by Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front terrorists. “We hope that this offensive was in no way coordinated with the US,” the ministry said.
"A number of measures aimed at strengthening and improving the effectiveness of the Syrian air defense system will be implemented in the near future in order to protect the vital parts of the Syrian infrastructure," Konashenkov said.