Russia Accuses Obama of 'Putting a Mine' Under Trump by Arming Syrian Rebels

(Photo: Reuters/Khalil Ashawi)Rebel fighter clean a weapon in al-Rai town, northern Aleppo countryside, Syria, December 25, 2016.
(Photo: Reuters/Muzaffar Salman)Abboud, 12, rests with fellow Free Syrian Army fighters in Aleppo's Sheikh Saeed neighbourhood, Syria, September 28, 2013. Abboud and his brother Deeb, 14, both school-going children before the civil war, joined the Free Syrian Army after the deaths of two of their brothers and an uncle in the conflict.
(Photo: Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail)Rebel fighters and civilians wait near damaged buildings to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria December 18, 2016. Picture taken December 18, 2016.
(Photo: Reuters/via ReutersTV)A still image from video taken December 12, 2016 of a general view of smoke rising over bomb damaged eastern Aleppo, Syria. Video released December 12, 2016.
(Photo: Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail)Rebel fighters and civilians wait to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria December 18, 2016.

Russia said on Tuesday that a U.S. decision to ease some restrictions on arming Syrian rebels had opened the way for deliveries of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, a move it said would directly threaten Russian forces in Syria.

Moscow last year launched a campaign of air strikes in Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad and government forces in a conflict with rebels, some of whom are supported by the United States.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the policy change easing some restrictions on weapons supplies to rebels was set out in a new U.S. defence spending bill and that Moscow regarded the step as a hostile act.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed the annual defence policy bill into law last week.

"In the administration of B. Obama they must understand that any weapons handed over will quickly end up in the hands of jihadists with whom the sham 'moderate' opposition have long acted jointly," Zakharova said in a statement.

"Such a decision is a direct threat to the Russian air force, to other Russian military personnel, and to our embassy in Syria, which has come under fire more than once. We therefore view the step as a hostile one."

Zakharova accused the Obama administration of trying to "put a mine" under the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump by attempting to get it to continue what she called Washington's "anti-Russian line."

During his election campaign, Trump said he was keen to try to improve relations with Moscow and spoke positively about President Vladimir Putin's leadership skills.

A back-and-forth exchange between Trump and Putin over nuclear weapons last week tested the Republican's promises to improve relations with Russia.

The Obama administration and U.S. intelligence officials have accused Russia of trying to interfere with the U.S. election by hacking Democratic Party accounts.

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn/Peter Hobson; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)