Russia promises 'consequences' for US airstrikes

Russian Ambassador to the USA Anatoly Antonov posted an explosive online statement that claimed Russia was being “threatened”. Courtesy: 9NEWS

Russia has promised “consequences” for the US-led coalition airstrikes that President Donald Trump launched at Syria earlier today. 

Russian Ambassador to the USA Anatoly Antonov posted an explosive online statement that claimed Russia was being “threatened”. 

“We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences,” he said.

“All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.” 

The Ambassador said a “pre-designed scenario” was being implemented in response to the strikes at three targets which the US said was a “one-time shot” targeting Syria’s chemical weapons program. 

“Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible,” Mr Antonov said. 

Earlier, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said the airstrikes were a “one-time shot” to send a strong message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

US, British and French forces hit Syria with airstrikes early this morning in response to a poison gas attack that killed 60 people last week. 

Explosions were heard in the Syrian capital of Damascus as Trump announced the airstrikes. 

“These strikes are directed at the Syrian Regime,” Mr Mattis said at a televised briefing.

“Right now, this is a one-time shot and I believe it has sent a really strong message.”

One Damascus resident told BBC News “it was mayhem above us”. 

“I saw more than 20 anti-air missiles launched,” the local said.

“They’d fly really high then start weaving across like they were following their target.

“I didn’t see the cruise missiles, but I saw some falling debris nearby.”

In a televised address from the White House this morning, Trump said he had “ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of al-Assad”.

“A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway – we thank them both,” Trump said.

“One year ago, al-Assad launched a savage chemical weapons attack against his own innocent people.” 

Mr Trump said the United States responded with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20 percent of the Syrian air force. 

“Last Saturday, the al-Assad Regime again deployed chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians,” he said. 

He condemned the attacks in powerful terms.

“These are not actions of a man, these are crimes of a monster instead,” he said.

“The purpose of our actions is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons.”

Trump was also critical of both Russia and Iran, who have backed Assad’s government.

“To Iran and to Russia, I ask, what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?” Trump said. 

Alexander Sherin, deputy head of the State Duma’s defence committee, says Trump “can be called Adolf Hitler number two of our time — because, you see, he even chose the time that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union”.

At least six loud explosions were heard in Damascus this morning and smoke was seen rising over the Syrian capital.

Syrian state TV said the army’s air defences were confronting the attack by the United States, France and Britain.

A second witness said the Barzah district of Damascus had been hit in the strikes. Barzah is the location of a major Syrian scientific research centre.

In a statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May said there was “no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons”. 

“This persistent pattern of behaviour must be stopped – not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horror deaths and causalities caused by chemical weapons but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons,” she said.

“We have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this. 

“But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted. Even this week, the Russians vetoed a resolution in the UN Security Council which would have established an independent investigation into the Douma attack. 

“This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change. It is about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region.

“It will also send a clear signal to anyone else  who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity.” 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia supported the strikes, which showed a “calibrated, proportionate and targeted response”.

“They send an unequivolcal message to the Assad regime and its backers, Russia and Iran, that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” the leaders said in a joint statement.

Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop called on the United Nations Security Council, including member Russia, to investigate and address the chemical attack.

“The Australian Government has taken action in response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons,” the statement read.

“It has placed a total of 135 individuals and 42 entities under Australia’s autonomous sanctions regime in relation to Syria including the 24 August 2017 sanctions against 40 individuals and 14 entities linked to the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons program.”

However, Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop said Australia supported finding a political solution to the crisis and supported a UN-led peace process.

“Since 2011, we have committed and provided more than $433 million in humanitarian assistance to support those affected by the civil war in Syria,” the statement read.

At a press conference this afternoon, Defence Minister Marise Payne said Australia was not approached to participate in the airstrikes. 

“I can confirm there was no Australian involvement in the strike,” Ms Payne said.

“The attack was calibrated, proportionate and targeted.”