Russian-supplied weaponry ‘killing Syrians on an hourly-basis’
Washington ratcheted up its accusations against Russia on Wednesday, claiming Soviet-made weaponry is killing Syrian civilians across the country on an “hourly-basis”.
The state department made the new claims as Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, flatly denied allegations that Moscow is supplying Bashar al-Assad with attack-helicopters, instead pointing the finger at American intervention in the region.
Risking further inflaming the dispute, Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the state department, repeated the claims today, adding that Russia is actively engaged in resupplying the tyrannical regime.
“On a daily basis, on an hourly basis, we are seeing Russian and Soviet-made weaponry used against civilians in towns all across Syria,” she said.
“Russian and Soviet-made helicopters form the base of the Syrian helicopter fleet. We are seeing these helicopters used all over Syria now against civilians. We’re seeing gun mounts on these being used to fire on populations and homes. … We’ve seen the Russians resupply the weapons that they’ve sold to the Syrians as recently as January.”
Last month, regime forces slaughtered 108 civilians in Houla and reports of second massacre emerged last week, detailing the bloody mass killing of at least 78 villagers in Hama province. Many were said to have been women and children.
Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, accused Moscow of aiding pro-Assad militiamen on Tuesday saying the move would “escalate the conflict quite dramatically”.
Mr Lavrov hit out at Mrs Clinton’s assertion saying the US was providing military support to the rebels, adding that Russia had not violated any international laws by supplying “air defence systems” as part of an ongoing contract with the Arab country.
“That contrasts with what the United States is doing with the opposition, which is providing arms to the Syrian opposition which are being used against the Syrian government,” he said.
The White House denied arming opposition forces, although the state department admitted it was supplying non-lethal support in the form of communication equipment and humanitarian relief.
“The United States is sending no military equipment to the Syrian opposition. What we are doing is supplying non-lethal support … primarily communications gear and we are also one of the largest donors of humanitarian relief,” Ms Nuland said.
There is an EU but no UN arms embargo on Syria, in part because Russia has refused to allow any action at the security council against the regime. The US, however, has denied that it is arming the rebels.
Credible reports emerged yesterday that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have begun to make good previous promises to supply the Free Syrian Army through Turkey. Britain, the US and other powers are also providing communications assistance to the opposition.
Russia has long been Syria’s main provider of weaponry. Its only Mediterranean naval base is also in Syria, in the town of Tartous.