Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin (File)

The Russian Defense Ministry has accused the US of a drone attack on Russia’s Hmeimim airbase in western Syria.

The Deputy Defense Minister, Col. Gen. Alexander Fomin, told a security forum in Beijing on Thursday, “Thirteen drones moved according to common combat battle deployment, operated by a single crew. During all this time the American Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plane patrolled the Mediterranean Sea area for eight hours.”

He asserted that when Russia used electronic countermeasures of the Russian systems, the Poseidon-8 switched the drones to manual control until the Russians were able to destroy them.

Fomin offered no supporting evidence for his claims. Rebels have carried out drone attacks on Hmeimim, but there has never been any indication of the involvement of the US military, which switched its backing from the opposition to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in autumn 2015.

Russia has been waging a public campaign for the withdrawal of all US military personnel from Syria. Donald Trump called for withdrawal in the spring, but the Pentagon was able to maintain the American presence and to add additional troops. US officials have said the American-backed areas in north and east Syria are necessary to check Iran, which is an essential political and military ally of the Assad regime.

Hmeimim is the central base for Russia’s military intervention in Syria since September 2015, which initially prevented the fall of the regime and then enabled the recapture of most opposition areas through intensive airstrikes and support of sieges.

Soon after the intervention, Russia and the US reached a de-confliction agreement to avoid accidental clashes between Russian and American warplanes.