Russia has threatened military action against US forces if Washington were to strike the Syrian army، in a sharp escalation of tension between Moscow and the west، Financial Times reported.
Valery Gerasimov، head of the General Staff of the Russian Federation’s armed forces، said Russia would retaliate if the US launched strikes on Damascus. “In case the lives of our soldiers are under threat، the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will take retaliatory measures both against missiles and against the delivery vehicles used،” Ria Novosti and Interfax quoted him as saying.
Moscow’s threat of directly hitting US military assets further escalates tension between Russia and the west، already at boiling point after British prime minister Theresa May threatened new extensive sanctions against Russia should Moscow fail to explain by the end of today the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK.
Mr Gerasimov’s stark warning comes after Washington ratcheted up the pressure for decisive international action to end the assault of the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on eastern Ghouta، the rebel enclave on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.
Nikki Haley، US ambassador at the UN، told the Security Council on Monday that the US was prepared for unilateral action to end the Assad regime’s shelling of eastern Ghouta. “It is not the path we prefer، but it is a path we have demonstrated we will take، and we are prepared to take again،” Ms Haley said، according to Reuters.
On February 24، the UN Security Council unanimously called for a month-long ceasefire in all of Syria. But Syrian government forces backed by Russia have since then continued their strikes on eastern Ghouta، which the Assad regime and Moscow claim are targeting ‘terrorists’. There have also been chemical weapons attacks. While the Syrian army has widely been blamed، Moscow continues to deny that Mr Assad’s regime had a role in those.
Mr Gerasimov accused Washington together with Syrian armed opposition of plotting a “provocation” with chemical weapons، for which the Syrian regime would be blamed. “As retaliatory measures، Washington plans a missile attack on the government-controlled parts of Damascus،” he said.