Keeping Russian media on message is easy. It’s getting more difficult when you must count on a synchronized message stream from your allies. Even ones as loyal and authoritarian as Assad’s Syria.
Today Syria’s SANA agency broke the news [citing unnamed Syrian military sources], that “Russian air forces bombed ISIS positions in the city of Palmyra”.
That was an oops moment, for at least two reasons: first, because Palmyra is a densely populated town, and second, because it borders a unique UNESCO Heritage Site.
“Air strikes also targeted ISIS hideouts in Palmyra city in Homs, destroying 20 armored vehicles, 3 ammunition depots and 3 rocket launching pads, according to the source”
Major Russian media reported this story, but quickly retracted it when the Ministry of Defense said it wasn’t true. Not only was it not true, but, said Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov of the MoD, it was part of the West’s information campaign targeting Russia.
“The Russian air force does not attack Syrian residential areas and even less architectural monuments. This is not the first time that we must refute reports from Western media in relation to the activities of the Russian air force in Syria”, said Maj Gen Konashenkov.
The same Russian media that originally carried the Syrian story now headlined the MoD’s rebuttal with the damning: “Russian MoD responds to the West’s accusations: Palmyra was not bombed”. The Russian Foreign Ministry was not slow in joining in: at a specially convened press conference, FM spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that
Western allegations regarding Russian operations in Syria are illogical and incorrect
All of which led to the following comical perfect storm on SANA’s website: