On April 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned the U.S. airstrike against Syria and has positioned a warship to protect the Syrian coast.
A military-diplomatic source confirmed that the Russian Black Sea frigate, armed with cruise missiles, was diverted from a routine mission in the Mediterranean to a port along the Syrian coastline.
"This is fraught with the possibility of a clash between Russia and the U.S.A., and the consequences might could be the most severe, including military conflict," said Mikhail Yemelyanov, member of the Russian parliament, according to The Washington Post. "Here you can’t rule out anything."
President Donald Trump ordered the missile launch April 6 in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad's alleged chemical attack against his own citizens.
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"Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched," the president said in a statement, reports NPR. "It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."
The U.S. fired 59 Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian air base where officials say the chemical attacks originated. The airstrike was meant to avoid civilian casualties and hit aircraft and aircraft hangars, ammunition stores, air defense systems and radars. Syrian officials said the airstrike killed multiple civilians, including children.
“U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement.
Following the incident, Putin said that there is a "significantly increased" chance of an aerial confrontation between Russia and the U.S.
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Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Syrian government was not in possession of any chemical weapons and claimed that the U.S. used that as an excuse to enter the conflict. Under a 2013 Russian-U.S. agreement, Syria agreed to halt the use of all chemical weapons.
"President Putin considers the American strikes against Syria an aggression against a sovereign government in violations of the norms of international law, and under a far-fetched pretext," he said. "This step by Washington is causing significant damage to Russian-American relations, which are already in a deplorable state."
Peskov further affirmed that Russia will continue to provide military aid to Syria.
"Of course, Syria is our ally, considering that we are helping the Syrian armed forces at the Syrian leadership's request," said Peskov.
USA Today reports that the Russian military will help strengthen Syrian air defenses and "protect the most sensitive Syrian infrastructure facilities," according Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov.