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Pentagon calls on Russia to stop 'reckless behavior' in Syria

An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle comes in for a landing at Joint Base Balad, Iraq on November 20, 2008. File Photo by Erik Gudmundson/U.S. Air Force
An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle comes in for a landing at Joint Base Balad, Iraq on November 20, 2008. File Photo by Erik Gudmundson/U.S. Air Force | License Photo

July 7 (UPI) -- The Pentagon has called on Russia to stop its "reckless behavior" in Syria after Russian jets harassed U.S. drones causing them to take evasive measures.

U.S. Central Command said three U.S. MQ-9 drones were conducting a mission involving Islamic State targets on Wednesday when, at about 10:40 a.m., they came under harassment from three Russian jets, which dropped multiple parachute flares in front of them.

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Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a news conference Thursday that Russia's behavior was "unprofessional and unsafe" but reiterated that the U.S. focus in Syria is "purely on the defeat ISIS mission."

"We call on the Russian forces to cease this type of reckless behavior and to behave like professional airmen," Ryder said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it was conducting joint drills with Syrian forces and that the U.S. drones violated airspace and deconfliction protocols.

Responding to questions about those claims, Ryder said U.S. and Russian forces have been in Syria "for many years now fighting ISIS as part of an international coalition."

Other militaries fighting terrorism amid an ongoing civil war in Syria include Turkey, Iran and Israel.

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"We have rules in place that -- you know, well-established processes and procedures, and have very successfully deconflicted with the Russians over many years when it comes to safe operations in that region," he said.

"So, to suggest that somehow, you know, this is our fault, it's ridiculous."

Though both the United States and Russia are in Syria to fight ISIS, Moscow remains an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who is fighting an ongoing civil war against the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The SDF was created with the support of the United States to fight terrorism in the country. Though many SDF fighters oppose the Assad regime, their primary focus is to combat ISIS.

Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have been growing since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine last year but the two countries maintain a so-called deconfliction channel to avoid inadvertent conflict.

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