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Russia Draws A Line Across Syria After U.S. Shoots Down Syrian Jet

Russia says its missile systems in Syria will track everything in the air west of the Euphrates River as a potential target — including aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition — after the U.S. shot down a Syrian jet Sunday. U.S. officials say the aircraft had struck America's rebel allies.

Russia also says it will suspend its participation in a "deconfliction" line that was established to prevent inadvertent clashes when Russia began military operations in Syria's airspace 20 months ago.

The announcement by Russia's Ministry of Defense comes one day after a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22. The Pentagon says the Syrian jet was downed "immediately" after it dropped bombs near fighters from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, who had been holding a town west of Raqqa as part of an offensive against ISIS.

"As a result of the attack, the Syrian aircraft was destroyed," the Russian ministry said Monday, adding that the pilot ejected over an ISIS-controlled area and his status is unknown.

It's believed to be the first time in nine years that "a U.S. combat aircraft has shot down a manned enemy aircraft in aerial combat," The Aviationist reports.

On Monday, Russia's Ministry of Defense accused the U.S. of "a cynical violation" of Syria's sovereignty, saying that Russian aircraft had also been carrying out combat missions in the same region — and that the coalition didn't use the deconfliction channels.

Raqqa sits along the Euphrates' eastern bank; the aerial combat took place south of Tabqah, a city on the other side of the river and about 30 miles to the west of Raqqa.

The new clash comes two months after the U.S. launched a barrage of Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase that had hosted airplanes responsible for a chemical weapons attack in Idlib province. Before that attack, U.S. officials informed their Russian counterparts.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.