Russia has deployed its advanced S-400 air defense system in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday, with the weapons to be used to cover the area around its airbase in coastal Latakia.
"According to the decision of the supreme commander-in-chief, an air defense complex S-400 has been delivered to the Russian Hmeimim airbase in Syria and is already on duty to cover the area," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
US officials have criticized the decision to send the missiles to Syria, saying their presence raises "significant concerns" due to their wide 400-kilometer (250-mile) reach that stretches beyond Syria's borders into Turkey and Israel.
A video posted on the ministry's official Facebook page showed launchers being unloaded from a cargo plane, driven down a road, and switched into a deployed position.
After Turkey shot down one of its jets, Moscow said Wednesday it would deploy the system in Syria to protect its planes, which have been carrying out air strikes since September 30.
The incident, which Turkey says was caused by the Russian pilot's breach of its air space, has severely hit relations between the two countries, with President Vladimir Putin calling it a "stab in the back."
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Thursday that the military had been "sure that Russian planes destroying IS targets are guaranteed not to be attacked from the US-led so-called anti-IS coalition."
But the downing of the Russian jet on Tuesday changed this and "now the safety of Russian fleet's planes... will be ensured by more secure means," he said.