The United States Defense Department is accusing Russia of intentionally violating an agreement meant to avoid military accidents in the skies over Syria following an incident last week involving U.S. and Russian fighter jets.
Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana White told CNN on Thursday that “Russia is failing to genuinely de-conflict airspace in Syria. Some of these incidents are not mistakes.” She added: “We are working to address this issue at the highest levels.”
Last week, Two U.S. F-22 fighter jets intercepted two Russian Su-25 attack jets and fired warning flares after the Russian aircraft flew east of the Euphrates River. The river has been designated as a deconfliction line as it separates Russian and US-led coalition forces operating in the country.
Russian and U.S. military officials agreed last month to fly on opposite sides of a 45-mile portion of the river in an effort to prevent in air collisions, but the Russians have violated the agreement half a dozen times, according to U.S. commanders.
“Right now, I cannot tell you if it’s sloppy airmanship, or a rambunctious pilot, or people who are trying to do something that was very unwise,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, according to CNN.
Concerned military leaders, including, Lt. Col. Damien Pickart from the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, told the network that forces might have to shoot down a Russian aircraft over Syria “because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces.”