Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday that the US has been acting unilaterally in a “dangerous way,” in Syria undermining the country’s integrity.

Lavrov said the US moves are eroding Syria’s territorial integrity by sponsoring the creation of power structures independent from Damascus, noting that Moscow has raised those concerns with US government officials. He said: “[The] Americans have taken dangerous unilateral steps … those steps look increasingly as part of efforts to create a quasi-state on a large part of Syrian territory — from the eastern bank of the Euphrates River all the way to the border with Iraq.” He said that Russia remains in favour of Kurdish participation in the Syrian peace process.

The Russian government said it had no information about Russian mercenaries who were reportedly killed in Syria, saying it only knew about Russian nationals who had been deployed there as members of the Russian armed forces. The statement came in response to media reports that Russian mercenaries had been killed this month when US-led coalition forces clashed with pro-government forces in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “We don’t have information about other Russians who might be in Syria.” However, at least two Russian men fighting informally with pro-government forces were killed in the incident in Deir al-Zor province, their associates told Reuters on Monday. Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat and lawmaker said in response that: “This is a big scandal and a reason for an acute international crisis. But Russia will pretend nothing happened.”

The Syrian government warned Israel of “more surprises” in store in the wake of the downing of the F-16 jet that attacked Iranian positions in the country on Saturday. The assistant Foreign Minister Ayman Sussan said: “God willing they will see more surprises whenever they try to attack Syria. Have full confidence the aggressor will be greatly surprised because it thought this war — this war of attrition Syria has been exposed to for years — had made it incapable of confronting attacks”.

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded to this weekend’s events stating: “We will continue to defend our vital security and other interests.”