Western criticism of Russian operations in Syria is groundless - Moscow

Moscow is used to “unsubstantiated claims” coming from Western capitals, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said in a strong response to his British counterpart’s statement that Russia is undermining international peace efforts in Syria.

“Concerning the statements from London and other Western capitals claiming that our Air Force operations in Syria are not contributing to the resolution of the conflict – we are used to such statements. They are completely groundless,” Lavrov said following a meeting with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Tuesday.

Such statements “reflect the anxiety of our Western partners that our Air Force is operating effectively in Syrian airspace,” he added.

On Monday, the head of the British Foreign Office, Philip Hammond, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of undermining international efforts to end the Syrian civil war by bombing opponents of President Assad who are countering Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“The Russians say they want to destroy Daesh [Arabic acronym for ISIS] but they are not bombing Daesh: they are bombing the moderate opposition… supporting Assad,” Hammond told Reuters in Jordan, where he was meeting with his counterpart Nasser Judeh.

“It's a source of constant grief to me that everything we are doing is being undermined by the Russians,” Hammond said, claiming that “less than 30 percent” of Russian strikes are aimed at Islamic State targets.

In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it is “illogical and incorrect” to make such statements, adding that they contradict the very essence of Russian efforts in Syria and “cannot be taken seriously.”

Russia applies “sufficiently massive and consistent efforts to help Syrians fight terrorists that present danger for the whole world," Peskov said.

Hammond not only accused Moscow of “intervening” in Syria, but also alleged that the Russian air campaign in Syria was preventing refugees from returning home.

“Since the Russian intervention in Syria, the dribble of people who were perhaps going back from these camps to Syria has stopped dead, and there is a new flow coming in because of the actions the Russians are taking - particularly in southern Syria along the border just a few kilometers from here,” Hammond said at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marina Zakharova also commented on Hammond’s statement, describing it as “dangerous stove-piping of disinformation.”