MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The Russian Aerospace Forces and its vessels are tasked with supporting the Syrian government's anti-terrorism efforts, not conducting armed activity with the United States, Russian senator Victor Ozerov told Sputnik on Monday.
"Russia is not going there to conduct armed activity with the US, our task there is to support the Syrian armed forces in the fight against terrorism," Ozerov, chairman of the Russian upper house defense and security committee, said.
He stressed that "we have a mandate to fulfill this very task."
The return of Russia’s Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate to the Mediterranean Sea is planned and not related to last week's US missile attack on Syria, the senator said.
"You cannot deploy such a ship in one day. This rotation is planned; the Admiral Grigorovich escorted the Admiral Kuznetsov [aircraft carrier], and is now back," he said. "Admiral Grigorovich is quite an effective ship; we have already attacked militants from its deck. Thus, this is not so much about the moral support for the Syrian armed forces in the fight against terrorists, as it is about fire cover," he elaborated.
Trials of Russia's first Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate were successfully completed in the Barents Sea in late 2015. The frigates, displacing 3,850 tonnes, are designed for anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare, as well as for air defense missions, operating both independently or as part of convoys and naval task forces.
On April 7, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian military airfield in Ash Sha’irat. US President Donald Trump said that the attack was a response to the alleged use of chemical weapon in Syria's Idlib province on April 4, which resulted in the death of over 80 people, an incident which Washington blames on the Syrian government.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 5 that the airstrike near Khan Shaykhun by the Syrian air force hit a terrorist warehouse that stored chemical weapons slated for delivery to Iraq, and called on the UN Security Council to launch a proper investigation into the incident.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on April 6 that groundless accusations regarding the chemical weapons incident in Idlib province were unacceptable until an investigation into the matter had been carried out, while Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday criticized the US missile attack as a violation of international law.
After the missile attack, the Russian Defense Ministry suspended a point-to-point communications link with the US military under the memorandum of understanding on the conflict in Syria.