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Pentagon denies Russia's claims it joined U.S.-led coalition in anti-ISIS airstrikes

January 23, 2017 (Photo Credit: George Ourfalian/AFP via Getty Images)
BEIRUT — The U.S. says Russia's claim that its warplanes flew a joint mission over Syria with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group is "rubbish."

Russia's Defense Ministry said Monday its forces in Syria had received coordinates of ISIS targets near al-Bab on Sunday "from the U.S. side via hotline with the international coalition headquarters."

U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a coalition spokesman, almost immediately labeled the Russian claim as propaganda.

“The Department of Defense is not coordinating airstrikes with the Russian military in Syria,” said Eric Pahon, a spokesman at the Pentagon. “DoD  maintains a channel of communication with the Russian military focused solely on ensuring the safety of aircrews and de-confliction of coalition and Russian operations in Syria.”

U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said  the U.S. has insisted for months that it has no coordination or sharing of targets with Russia.

New U.S. President Donald Trump has called for joint efforts with Russia against ISIS.

In addition to saying it received coordinates "from the U.S. side via hotline," the Russian Defense Ministry said Monday that two Russian warplanes and two aircraft of the U.S.-led coalition then struck targets, destroying several ammunition and fuel depots along with militants and weapons.

The attack followed a joint raid in the same area flown by Russian and Turkish jets on Saturday.

Russia's Defense Ministry also says six Russian long-ranger bombers struck ISIS positions in eastern Syria.

The ministry said in a statement on Monday that the Tu-22M3 bombers took off from an air base in Russia and conducted airstrikes around the city of Deir el-Zour, targeting the militants' command posts and ammunition depots.

The ministry said fighter jets from a Russian air base in the government-controlled part of Syria provided cover for the bombers.

The raid came as Syrian government troops in Deir el-Zour find themselves in an increasingly difficult situation, cut in half in an ongoing ISIS offensive against the last remaining pockets of government control. ISIS is excluded from the cease-fire currently in place in Syria.

Military Times' senior editor and Pentagon bureau chief Andrew deGrandpre contributed to this report.

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