Putin: Russia may back Syria strike if chemical weapons use proved
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a stauch ally of Bashar Assad, has called claims that the regime used chemical agents against civilians in Damascus 'ludicrous'. (AFP)
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Amid speculation that Russia may hike military assistance to Syria should the Unites States strike, Russian leader Vladimir Putin warned the West against taking action, in comments published on Wednesday.
In an interview with The Associated Press and Russia’s state Channel 1 television, Putin said that Moscow has provided some components of the S-300 air defense missile system to Syria but has frozen further shipments.
He said that Russia doesn’t "exclude” supporting a U.N. resolution on punitive military strikes, which is being called on by U.S. President Barack Obama, if it is proved that Damascus used poison gas on its own people.
Putin described claims that the government of President Bashar Assad - a staunch ally of Russia - had used chemical weapons as “ludicrous.”
“From our viewpoint, it seems absolutely absurd that the armed forces, the regular armed forces, which are on the offensive today and in some areas have encircled the so-called rebels and are finishing them off, that in these conditions they would start using forbidden chemical weapons while realizing quite well that it could serve as a pretext for applying sanctions against them, including the use of force,” he said.
The Obama administration says 1,429 people died in the Aug. 21 attack in a Damascus suburb.
But Putin compared the evidence presented by Washington to false data used by the Bush administration about weapons of mass destruction to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“All these arguments turned out to be untenable, but they were used to launch a military action, which many in the U.S. called a mistake. Did we forget about that?” Putin said.
Putin said he felt sorry that President Barack Obama canceled a one-on-one meeting in Moscow that was supposed to have happened before the summit.
“President Obama hasn’t been elected by the American people in order to be pleasant to Russia. And your humble servant hasn’t been elected by the people of Russia to be pleasant to someone either,” he said of their relationship.
“We work, we argue about some issues. We are human. Sometimes one of us gets vexed. But I would like to repeat once again that global mutual interests form a good basis for finding a joint solution to our problems,” Putin said.
Earlier, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told a Senate hearing that Russia may hike military assistance to Syria should U.S. strik
Dempsey added, however, that this was not a reason in his view to hesitate to act.
“There is some indication that they (the Russians) have assured the regime that if we destroy something, they can replace it.”