On Wednesday, Russian combat jets launched pinpointed strikes against IS targets in Syria. Almost immediately, Western media outlets carried reports of civilian casualties.
"No sooner had [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov uttered his first words at the Security Council, than numerous reports emerged in Western, regional, including Ukrainian media, that the military operation carried out by Russia had killed civilians, almost as if this operation was aimed at democratic forces and the civilian population," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told LifeNews television.
"I want to tell you that all this is the very information attack, the information war we have heard so much about, and for which someone, apparently, prepared very well."
In part, Zakharova is referring to comments from the Pentagon. The US Defense Department has accused Moscow of bombing targets where "there were probably no Islamic State militants." But much of this finger-pointing stems from Washington’s own interest in ousting the legitimate administration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"Fighting ISIL without pursuing a parallel political transition only risks escalating the civil war in Syria, and with it the very extremism and instability that Moscow claims to be concerned about and aspire to fighting," US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters on Wednesday.
Moscow was quick to respond.
"It’s all been said by the Russian Defense Ministry," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "do not listen to Pentagon allegations about our airstrikes."
The Russian Ministry of Defence later released video of the strikes.
US criticism is especially surprising given the Pentagon’s own bombing campaigns in the country. While the US-led coalition has carried out airstrikes for months, with little effect, those actions were carried out without the authority of Syria’s legitimate government.
Washington is also reeling from embarrassing revelations about its own failed campaign to train "moderate" rebels to combat IS. The vast majority of those trainees defected and handed over their weapons to the Nusra front.
Russia’s military actions are the only ones carried out under the authority of President Assad.
While Western leaders have long said that Assad’s ousting is mandatory for any solution to the Syrian crisis, the Kremlin has stated its preference for regional stability and a reforms process.
"I know that President Assad understands that and is ready for such a process," President Putin told reporters. "We hope that he will be active and flexible and ready to compromise in the name of his country and his people."
During a press briefing on Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the United States and Russia would continue to hold talks about Moscow’s airstrikes.
"One of the things that both President Putin and President Obama have asked their teams to do is to continue to consult, and so I would anticipate that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov will have additional conversations about Russia’s activities inside of Syria," Earnest said.