Russia issued a harshly-worded warning for the U.S. not to interfere in the Syrian conflict, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his French equivalent, Jean-Marc Ayrault, Thursday to salvage what is left of the besieged city of Aleppo.
Using extraordinarily blunt language, Russia cautioned the U.S. not to intervene in Syria against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, saying the Russia and the Syrian government had significant air defenses.
"Any missile or airstrikes on the territory controlled by the Syrian government will create a clear threat to Russian servicemen," said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov.
“The illusions of dilettantes about the existence of 'stealth' aircraft may encounter a disappointing reality,” the spokesman added.
“I would recommend our colleagues in Washington to thoroughly consider the possible consequences of the realization of such plans,” Konashenkov said.
Lavrov said on Thursday during a Moscow press conference that Russia endorsed the idea put forward by the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria to escort as many as 8,000 anti-government fighters from Aleppo to avoid the further destruction of the city. Aleppo has been the center of heavy fighting and aerial bombardment for weeks as Syrian forces try to rebel militia groups, some of who are backed by the U.S.
Staffan de Mistura, head of the Special Envoy, said that Aleppo could conceivably be flattened by the end of the year, warning that thousands more civilians could be slaughtered – an evacuation, he said, could help avoid “another Srebrenica, another Rwanda.”
De Mistura said there were up to 8,000 rebels in eastern Aleppo. "If you did decide to leave, in dignity with your weapons, to Idlib or anywhere you wanted to go, I personally am ready, physically ready, to accompany you," said De Mistura. "I can’t guarantee more than my own personality and body."
It comes as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday that his forces would press on with their offensive in Aleppo and recapture the rest of Syria. Meanwhile, the U.K.- based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that intense fighting in recent days had seen government forces capture around half of the rebel-held areas in Aleppo.
At least 293 civilians in Aleppo have been killed by airstrikes and shelling since the week-long cease-fire collapsed, according to the pro-opposition human rights observers.
Both Russia and the U.S. have traded blows and hardened their positions against each other over the break-up of the truce while blaming each other for not carrying out their responsibilities, particularly over the bombing of an aid convoy on Sept. 19. On Monday, the U.S. State Department said it had “suspended” bilateral contact with Russia over Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has continually criticized Russian and Syrian forces, claiming that they do not take peace in Syria seriously. Virginia State Senator Richard H. Black, in an interview with RT, said that “there is a very little indication here that John Kerry desires anything other than toppling the legitimate government of Syria.”
Black also explained that the U.S. government's seemingly contradictory approach to Syria is the result of a difference of opinion between the Department of State and the Department of Defense. Black said that the Department of Defense is more supportive of Russia, while Kerry's State Department “tends to be more favorable to the terrorists – to ISIS, to Al-Qaeda.”