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Russia Says U.S. Broke International Law In Striking Syria, Citing 'Pretext'

Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling the missile strike President Trump ordered against Syria Thursday "an act of aggression against a sovereign state delivered in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext," the Kremlin says.

Russia is urging an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council over the attack, in which two U.S. guided-missile destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria's Shayrat air base, the facility that hosted warplanes that the U.S. says carried out a chemical weapons strike in Idlib province earlier this week.

Tuesday's attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun has been blamed for dozens of civilian deaths. Last night, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. has "very high confidence" that the attacks included the sarin nerve agent.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's office issued a statement calling the U.S. strike "an unjust and arrogant aggression."

Of Trump's justification for the attack on Russia's ally — saying Syria used chemical weapons to kill dozens of its own citizens — the Kremlin's press office said that an international group had ensured that "The Syrian Army has no chemical weapons."

But that international group, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, says that although all the chemical weapons Syria had officially acknowledged possessing were destroyed in 2013, it has since deployed its fact-finding mission in Syria on "numerous occasions" to investigate repeated allegations that Assad's regime was using chemical weapons.

The OPCW says that it has confirmed with a "high degree of confidence" that Syria has previously used chlorine and mustard gas.

Of the accusations of sarin being used in the April 4 attack, the OPCW said on Thursday that it was still collecting and analyzing data, classifying its inquiry as ongoing.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said via state-run TASS media that the cruise missile strike was reminiscent of 2003, when the U.S. led an invasion of Iraq "without the consent of the U.N. Security Council and in violation of international law."

Saying that the U.S. attack in Syria had been prompted by photographs rather than facts, Lavrov blamed "speculations on children's photos" for the American strike. He also accused non-governmental organizations of staging incidents to prompt a move against the Syrian government.

Syria's General Command of the Army has issued a statement calling the attack "a blatant act of aggression targeting one of our air bases." According to Syria's state-run news agency, the Army also said that with the attack, the U.S. is now a "partner" of ISIS and other terrorist organizations that have targeted Syrian forces.

As the Two-Way has reported, U.S. officials informed Russia — which launched its own military campaign in Syria in the fall of 2015 — of the impending missile strike. And in planning the attack, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said, the U.S. was careful to avoid risk to "third country nationals at that airport — I think you read Russians from that."

Today, Russia seems to be taking little solace from that effort, although Lavrov confirmed that no Russian servicemembers had been harmed.

"This move by Washington ... has dealt a serious blow to Russian-U.S. relations, which are already in a poor state," said Putin's press service.

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