Russian and US military officials are still using a special hotline to communicate about operations in Syria, a US official said today, days after Moscow said it was severing the connection. Russia on Monday said it would stop using the so-called “deconfliction” line in response to a US pilot shooting down a regime war plane in northern Syria, with Moscow accusing Washington of failing to issue a warning. But Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, told reporters in a video call that “the deconfliction line is in use.”
“It is in use to make sure that… our air crews and ground forces are safe,” he said. The Russian defense ministry said Friday it had conducted a “surprise mass missile strike” against IS targets, using cruise missiles fired from the Mediterranean. Dillon would not say if Russia had used the line to warn the Americans ahead of the strike, but a US defense official confirmed to AFP that it had.
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Sunday’s shoot-down saw a US pilot fire on a regime warplane as it “dropped bombs” on US-backed local forces. Moscow quickly said it would stop using the line, but the reality is that the communication channel is a vital link between Russia and the United States to make sure the two powers avoid mishaps in Syria’s confusing battlespace.
After the United States launched a cruise missile attack on a regime air base in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons strike on civilians, Moscow made a similar threat in April. But it later emerged that Russia and the United States continued to use the hotline even after Moscow said it was hanging up.