The US State Department on Friday accused Russia of a “morally bankrupt” policy in Syria, two days after Turkey intercepted a Syrian passenger jet headed from Moscow to Damascus over suspicions it had military equipment on board.
"No responsible country ought to be aiding and abetting the war machine of the Assad regime and particularly those with responsibilities for global peace and security as UN Security Council members have," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
On Wednesday, Turkish fighter jets forced the jet to land on its soil and seized what it said was ammunition and military gear bound for Syria.
Nuland said the US had “grave concern” that Russia is continuing to supply Syrian government forces with material that could be used against rebels struggling to topple President Bashar Assad’s regime.
"We have no doubt that this was serious military equipment," Nuland said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that the plane was legally carrying Russian radar parts for Syria.
"We have no secrets," Lavrov told journalists in Moscow. "There were, of course, no weapons on board and there could not have been."
Lavrov also stressed the delivery was "entirely legal" and that Russia would demand both the return of the equipment and an explanation from Turkey. He insisted the shipment contained “electronic equipment for radars” that complied with international law, adding that it was of “dual purpose” that could have civilian and military applications.
Nuland said the shipment was “legally correct,” but she added “the policy is still morally bankrupt.”
"There are no Security Council sanctions on Syria because Security Council members Russia and China continue to block them," she said. "Everybody else on the Security Council is doing what it can unilaterally to ensure that the Assad regime is not getting support from the outside."
Moscow has repeatedly blocked UN Security Council sanctions against Syria’s embattled regime over what it says is a pro-rebel bias.