Vladimir Putin condemns US for refusing to share Syria terror targets
Russian presidents says West is stonewalling requests for help on Syrian terrorist targets and failing to grasp the basic facts on the ground
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Moscow
"Where is the free Syrian army," he asked mockingly, alleging that munitions drops from the sky were falling into the hands of Isil, whatever the original intentions.
"I think some of our partners simply have mush for brains. They do not have a clear understanding of what is really happening in the country and what goals they are seeking to achieve," he said.
Mr Putin claimed the legal high ground, insisting that Russia is acting on the invitation of the Syrian authorities.
"All our actions fully comply with the UN charter, contrary to the actions of our colleagues from the so-called US-led international coalition," he said.
Despite his pugnacious tone, Mr Putin appeared keen to play up the idea of a grand coalition of Russia and the West to defeat Isil. "I believe we have a common interest but so far co-operation has been military only," he said.
Mr Putin said Russian and US pilots are exchanging "friend\foe" signals to avoid dangerous incidents in the combat theatre. "It is a sign of mutual trust, but it is not enough," he said, adding that he has offered to send a high-level mission to Washington led by premier Dmitry Medvedev to deepen ties - again receiving no answer.
Diplomats say Mr Putin may calculate that a gradual convergence of interests with the West in fighting ISIS could help mend relations so badly damaged by the Ukraine crisis, but he is doing it in such a way as to further irritate Washington and the key European powers.
European Union foreign ministers condemned the policy in a joint statement on Monday, demanding an immediate end to the bombing. “This military escalation risks prolonging the conflict, undermining a political process, aggravating the humanitarian situation and increasing radicalisation,” they said.
It is an open question whether Russia can afford to maintain a serious air campaign as the economy contracts by 3.8pc this year, and as crumbling oil revenues force the Kremlin to make drastic budget cuts.
Abu Mohamed al-Jolani, the leader of Al-Nusra jihadi front in Syria, said Russia will now suffer a whirlwind of reprisals.
"If the Russian army kills the people of Syria, then kill their people. If they kill our soldiers, then kill their soldiers. An eye for an eye," he said.