On Saturday, President Vladimir Putin slammed the USA, saying that Washington’s allegations about the Syrian régime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians were “unimaginable nonsense”. Putin dismissed American claims about the chemical attack that reportedly killed hundreds last week, stating, “Common sense speaks for itself… government troops are advancing, in some regions they surround the insurgents. In such conditions, giving a trump card to those who’ve always been calling for a foreign military intervention is simply unimaginable nonsense. I’m sure this was no more than a provocation by those looking to drag other countries [into the conflict] and obtain support of powerful international player, particularly the USA”.
The USA claimed that the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were behind the attack, but these claims require solid proof, Putin said, marking the first time he weighed in on the topic. During a trip to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East, he said, “Claims that the proof exists, but is classified and can’t be presented to anybody are below criticism. This is plain disrespect for their partners”. On Friday, the White House released a report blaming Assad’s government for the attack, which cited “human, signals and geospatial intelligence”, as well as open-source materials such as social media reports and videos of the alleged attack. The report explicitly stated that it omitted certain classified evidence, which it only made available to the US Congress.
Putin said that Russia denounced the use of chemical weapons and was ready for “consolidated participation in drafting measures to oppose such acts”. He also denied discussing possible American military strikes on Syrian targets with his American counterpart Barack Obama on the phone. However, Putin said that he was hoping to take up the Syrian issue with Obama during the upcoming G20 summit in St Petersburg on 5-6 September. Obama explicitly blamed Assad for the attack and threatened missile and bomb strikes against selected Syrian targets in retribution for using weapons of mass destruction. He denied plans for a ground invasion of Syria or Assad’s overthrow. Damascus has called the attacks a provocation by rebels it is battling since 2011. A UN investigative team is onsite at the incident site; it’s expected to present its findings in mid-September, but its mandate is limited to establishing whether the attack took place, not naming the guilty parties. On Thursday, the British Parliament ruled against supporting a possible American military operation in Syria. On Saturday, Putin said that he was “astonished” by the move, which, he added, was made by people “motivated by nation’s interests and common sense”.
31 August 2013