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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foreign Ministry Protests Bombing

In the latest sign of U.S.-Russian tensions over Iraq, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that American airstrikes had targeted a residential Baghdad neighborhood where the Russian Embassy is located.

U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow was called to the ministry to hear a protest over the bombing, the ministry said in a statement.

"The Russian side demanded that the American authorities take urgent and exhaustive measures so that such dangerous and unacceptable incidents are not repeated in the future," the ministry said.

The ministry did not report any casualties in Wednesday's airstrikes, but said "the security of the Russian diplomatic representation's staff came under direct threat."

Russia's ambassador to Washington, Yury Ushakov, delivered a similar protest to U.S. officials.

Asked about Vershbow's meeting at the Foreign Ministry, a U.S. Embassy official said U.S. forces were designating only military targets and using only precision-guided weapons in Iraq.

On a visit to the city of Tambov, about 400 kilometers southeast of Moscow, President Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia's opposition to the war, telling military veterans that Russia would "strive to return the [Iraqi] problem to the United Nations," news agencies reported.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov lashed out at the United States over allegations that Russian companies had provided Iraq with military equipment in violation of UN sanctions.

Echoing previous official denials, Ivanov dismissed Washington's allegations as "propaganda" intended to distract attention from criticism of its military campaign in Iraq. "Now that it's hot for them, they are raising an outcry. It's not excluded that there will be other groundless accusations," Ivanov was quoted as saying by the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.

Former President Boris Yeltsin added his criticism of the war on Wednesday, calling it a "very crude political, strategic mistake," Itar-Tass reported.

However, Yeltsin, who is visiting Japan, cautioned against allowing U.S.-Russian relations to slide back into Cold War animosity.

"We overcame this with such difficulty, and we can't return to it," Yeltsin said.

Amid the chill in U.S.-Russian relations, the State Duma last month put off ratification of a nuclear arms reduction treaty signed last May, citing negative feelings over Iraq.

Moderate lawmaker Vladimir Ryzhkov, who is in charge of parliamentary contacts with the U.S. Congress, pointed out Wednesday that Russia needs the arms reduction treaty more than the United States, because it can't afford large nuclear arsenals.

"It's wrong and simply stupid to use the treaty to blackmail the Americans," Ryzhkov told reporters.

Also Wednesday, the Duma refused to consider a nationalist-sponsored motion to provide massive humanitarian aid to Iraq. Only 105 lawmakers of the 226 necessary to put the draft resolution on the agenda voted to open debate.

 The war in Iraq can bolster global demand for the Russian weapons that have proven effective in action, the head of an arms trading company said Wednesday.

"You don't have to be an expert to see that there will be interests in the Russian weapons," said Alexander Nozdrachev, head of the state-owned Russian Agency for Conventional Weapons, according to the Interfax-Military News Agency.

Soviet-made weapons make up the core of Iraq's arsenal.

Nozdrachev said that Russia air defense weapons are expected to become even more popular on the international arms market because of the war.

"There is no equivalent to the air defense weapons in cost efficiency," Nozdrachev was quoted as saying. "Our weapons are the cheapest, but they are more efficient than the best western weapons."

Russia exported $4.8 billion worth of weapons last year and expanded its markets in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America, officials said.