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Russia 'strongly' condemns U.S. airstrikes against targets in Syria

Russia 'strongly' condemns U.S. airstrikes against targets in Syria
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is pictured during a press conference in Moscow, Russia, on Friday. Photo courtesy of the Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service/EPA-EFE

Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Russian officials said Friday that they "strongly condemn" U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed targets in eastern Syria and added that they're "closely monitoring" developments.

The comments came one day after the U.S. military destroyed facilities at an unnamed border control point used by Kait'ib Hezbollah and Kait'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, among other Iran-backed groups. Saudi broadcaster Al Hadath said the missile strikes killed at least 17 Shiite militia members.

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Defense Department press secretary John Kirby said the strikes were in retaliation for a deadly rocket attack against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq last week.

Russian Sen. Sergei Tsekov called the U.S. attack "outrageous."

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"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," he told Russia's RBC news site.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters the government "strongly condemn[s] such actions and call[s] for Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity to be unconditionally respected."

Russia has supported the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's decade-long civil war involving opposition Syrian Democratic Forces and the Islamic State. A U.S.-led coalition has provided support and training for the opposition forces.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters Friday the United States warned the Russian military about the attack just a few minutes ahead of time.

"Of course, such warnings are of little use when the strike is basically carried out at that moment," he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday the Russian government was in close and constant contact with Damascus and was following developments in the aftermath of the attack.

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"We are naturally closely monitoring the situation on the ground," he said. "We are in permanent contact with Syrian colleagues."

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Defense Department briefed congressional leadership Thursday night before the attack, and was briefing the rest of Congress and staffers Friday. She said there would be a full, classified briefing next week.

She told reporters the bombing sent an "unambiguous message" to Syrian militias that President Joe Biden is "going to act to protect Americans." Thursday's airstrikes was the first military operation conducted under the new administration.

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