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Reports RAF ‘ordered to shoot down Russian jets in Middle East’ prompts Moscow demands for meeting

Russia summoned Britain’s military attache to explain reports RAF pilots had been given approval to shoot down Russian warplanes in the Middle East, the Foreign Office has said. 

An “official explanation” was asked to be provided following reports that RAF Tornado fighters in Iraq had been fitted with missiles designed for aerial combat.

The Russian ambassador in London, Alexander Yakovenko, said he “urgently requested explanations” from the Foreign Office, according to The Times.

The reports have been described by the Foreign Office as “inaccurate”.

Britain’s Moscow defence attache met the Russian Ministry of Defence on Sunday and emphasised the UK’s concerns about Russian military involvement in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has deployed troops and aircraft to Syria to attack rebels attempting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war, which has lasted for nearly five years.

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Recently, Russian jets have carried out strikes against targets in Syria, which the Kremlin has said are designed to destroy Isis.

However, the West has claimed other groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad are also being hit.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The Russian government sought clarification over inaccurate newspaper reports concerning the RAF rules of engagement in Iraq.

“The defence attache reiterated the British government’s concerns about Russia’s military operation in Syria, including targeting legitimate opposition groups, using unguided weaponry and leading to large numbers of civilian deaths.”

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