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Safety calls increase between US, Russia militaries
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) May 24, 2017

Russian and US military officials are increasingly communicating about operations in Syria -- and doing so at a higher level -- as both countries wage separate but overlapping campaigns, a US general said Wednesday.

Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian, who heads US Air Forces Central Command, said generals from both militaries are now using a special "deconfliction" hotline to avoid mishaps.

The hotline, which had intially been staffed by lower-ranking officers, was established in late 2015 after Russia entered the Syrian war to prop up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia and the US-led coalition regularly use the hotline to make sure each side is apprised of where planes and ground forces are located.

The hotline has become ever more vital as Assad's forces have won victories over rebels in western Syria.

They are now focusing more toward the east, approaching areas where the US-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State group is operating.

"We have had to increase the amount of deconfliction work we're doing with the Russians, given the tighter airspace that we're now working ourselves through," Harrigian said.

Both sides want to avoid any accidents in the skies, or inadvertently striking the wrong ground forces.

"We ensure that as we prosecute the fight against the enemy, the Russians, while we don't give them specifics, we make sure we note where we're going to operate," Harrigian said.

He added the coalition has been establishing various moveable "deconfliction zones" around Syria that aim to ensure Russia tells US officials if they are planning operations in those locations.

Montenegro readies to join NATO in setback for Russia
Podgorica, Montenegro (AFP) May 24, 2017
Montenegro's Prime Minister Dusko Markovic did not mince his words when Russia last month announced a ban on imports from the Balkan country's biggest winemaker. "It is clear that the decision is in the context of (Montenegro's) NATO membership," he said, pointing out that Russian citizens had "lost an opportunity to consume the best wines". On May 25, Markovic will sit on the leaders' t ... read more

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