The Russian government said Wednesday the U.S. and its allies should refrain from striking Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack because military action would destroy “all evidence” of what happened at the site of the attack.
In a Facebook post, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova asked whether a chemical weapons watchdog preparing to deploy to Syria was aware that U.S.-led strikes could interfere with its investigation.
“Or is it the original idea to use the smart missiles to sweep the traces of the provocation under the rug?” Zakharova added, according to the Associated Press.
The Syrian government denies allegations that it used poison gas against civilians in eastern Ghouta over the weekend. The attack killed at least 40 (one report says 60) and left hundreds more injured, drawing international outrage and promises from Western allies to respond with military force.
Russia continues to insist the attack was fabricated by rebel groups in Syria with the aim of provoking a U.S. attack on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump promised a missile strike “will be coming” and warned Russia not to intervene in defense of Assad. Trump’s heated words were a response to Russia’s envoy to Lebanon, who said earlier that Russian forces would “shoot down the missiles and target the positions from where they were launched.”
The Kremlin appeared to walk back its ambassador’s remarks Wednesday, calling for both sides to wait for an “impartial investigation” before deciding how to respond to the chemical attack.
“As before, we would like to hope that all sides will avoid any steps that a) are not provoked by anything and b) could significantly destabilize an already fragile situation in the region,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and France moved warships armed with cruise missiles into the eastern Mediterranean, within striking range of Syria. Britain also has an air defense destroyer in the same area, along with more than a dozen fighter jets that could be used in an attack, The Wall Street Journal reported.
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