The U.S. Department of Defense laid the responsibility for the atrocities of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government at the feet of the Russian government Tuesday.
In a scathing statement, a Pentagon spokesman told CNBC that “by enabling the Assad regime’s brutality, Russia is morally complicit and responsible for Assad’s atrocities. It is impossible to ignore the growing body of evidence that Syria is continuing to use chemical weapons on its own people — a clear violation of international law.”
The statement was in response to Russian accusations that Syrian rebel fighters were planning to stage a chemical attack against civilians, which, Russia claimed, the U.S. would use to justify a missile strike on government held areas of Damascus.
“In several districts of Eastern Ghouta, a crowd was assembled with women, children and old people, brought from other regions, who were to represent the victims of the chemical incident, ” Chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov told Russian state-media outlet RIA.
“In case there is a threat to the lives of our military, the Russian Armed Force will take retaliatory measures both over the missiles and carriers that will use them,” he added.
The DOD spokesman hit back against these accusations: “We urge Russia to stop creating distractions and compel the Assad regime to stop brutalizing innocent Syrian citizens and allow much-needed aid to reach the people of East Ghouta and other remote areas.”
Russia has been one of the few allies of the Assad regime. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that 511,000 people have been killed in that country’s seven-year-old civil war – 85 percent of which have been civilians killed by Assad’s regime. In an effort to end the rebellion against his government, Assad has repeatedly used chemical weapons against his own people, including both sarin and chlorine gases.
Both the United Nations and Russia have called for cease-fires in the Damascus suburbs of Eastern Ghouta to allow for humanitarian aid to enter the city and for civilians to be evacuated. While earlier attempts have failed altogether, the Syrian government promoted the evacuation Tuesday of about 150 civilians.
The U.N. estimates that in Ghouta alone, 400,000 people are trapped and in need of aid and basic supplies.