Russia accuses US of 'pretending' to fight ISIS

Russia accuses US of 'pretending' to fight ISIS
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A spokesman for Russia's defense ministry said Tuesday that the U.S. is only "pretending to fight" the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and accused the Pentagon of deliberately allowing militants to complicate the Russian-backed Syrian army's operations.

“Everyone sees that the U.S.-led coalition is pretending to fight Islamic State, above all in Iraq, but continuing to allegedly fight Islamic State in Syria actively for some reason,” Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said, according to Reuters.

Konashenkov said the U.S. significantly reduced its airstrikes in Iraq last month, a move that he said allowed ISIS militants to pour into Deir al-Zour in Syria while Russian-backed Syrian forces launched an operation to retake the province, Reuters reported.

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“The actions of the Pentagon and the coalition demand an explanation," he said. "Is their change of tack a desire to complicate, as much as they can, the Syrian army’s operation, backed by the Russian air force, to take back Syrian territory to the east of the Euphrates?"

“Or is it an artful move to drive Islamic State terrorists out of Iraq by forcing them into Syria and into the path of the Russian air force’s pinpoint bombing?” he added. 

Konashenkov's comments came amid already-high tensions between the U.S. and Russia that arose over the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 presidential election.