A large majority of Russia's military airstrikes in Syria have not been aimed at the Islamic State (ISIS) group or jihadists tied to Al-Qaeda, and have instead targeted the moderate Syrian opposition, the State Department said Wednesday, according to AFP.
"Greater than 90 percent of the strikes that we've seen them take to date have not been against ISIL or Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists," State Department spokesman John Kirby said, using another acronym for ISIS.
"They've been largely against opposition groups that want a better future for Syria and don't want to see the Assad regime stay in power," he claimed.
The comments mark the first time that American authorities have offered any specific figures about the impact of Russian air strikes in the war-torn country.
Russia conducted its first airstrikes in Syria last week, claiming it had been targeting ISIS in the Homs and Hama districts of the country, but an unnamed American official later said the targets were U.S.-backed "moderate" rebel groups fighting ISIS.
French President Francois Hollande said last week he had "reminded [Russian] President Putin that the strikes should be aimed at Daesh and only Daesh," using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
Those comments were echoed this week by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who on Sunday urged Russia to direct airstrikes at ISIS jihadists alone in Syria.
Kirby’s accusation came as Moscow ramped up its bombardments in Syria.
Washington, which supports the moderate Syrian opposition, has consistently said that the Russian action will only add more fuel to the fire and will benefit the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
"So whether they're hit by a cruise missile from sea or a bomb from a Russian military aircraft, the result is the same, that Assad continues to get support from Russia," added Kirby, according to AFP.
"Assad continues to be able to have at his, you know, at his hands the capability of striking his own people, including those who are opposed to his regime,” he said.
"And that's not a good future for Syria. It's also, as we've said before, we believe a mistake for Russia, because not only are they going to be exacerbating sectarian tensions there in Syria, but they're potentially exacerbating sectarian tensions in Russia itself.” "They're putting themselves at greater risk."