Russia: We will protect our troops in Syria

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said the current situation with Donald Trump threatening to launch missiles at Syrian government forces is a “test for each and every country in the world to protect its people on the ground.”

Russia and Iran are the Assad regime’s allies in the Syrian civil war.

The Kremlin on Wednesday said the US and its allies – France, Germany and the UK – should “seriously consider” the consequences of their threats to launch military action in response to an alleged chemical attack carried out on Saturday in Douma, eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus.

Maria Zakharova spoke to Sky News in Moscow
Image:Maria Zakharova spoke to Sky News in Moscow

Ms Zakharova told Sky News Presenter Dermot Murnaghan, in Moscow: “Russia should protect its people on the ground of course.

“We came to Syria at the invitation of the people.

“You can see their appreciation on the ground.”

She refused to admit there had been a chemical attack on Douma over the weekend, claiming Russia is “100% sure that that was a clear provocation”.

She claimed to have proof that the White Helmets – the Syrian volunteer organisation which mainly consists of urban search and rescue after bombs, medical evacuation and evacuation of civilians in rebel-controlled areas – were responsible.

Analytic monitoring by the Russians has proved that the White Helmets are working with terrorist organisations in Syria, she claimed.

Russia wants experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to go to Syria as “quickly as possible”, with the Kremlin providing help, she added.

A child is treated following an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria. Pic:
Image:A child is treated following an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria.

Addressing communication between Russia and the US, Ms Zakharova said the fact there has been no US secretary of state for the past two months has been an issue.

“We’ve not had contact between two ministers but of course we’re holding contacts between the Russian Embassy in Washington and the State Department, and between the Russian foreign ministry and the US Embassy in Moscow.

“Of course, I hate to say this, but these contacts are rather poor, we need more contacts to make real communication but unfortunately our American partners are cutting all the roots, cutting communications.

“The last consultations on humanitarian issues they just cancelled and the most surprising for us was these consultations were asked for by the Americans. So they just destroyed the consultations they were asking for.”

She added that she was surprised Mr Trump tweeted that Russia should “get ready” because missiles “will be coming, new and new and ‘smart”.

“I was surprised that such strong messages were sent through social media because this should be a time to phone your partner,” she said.

She said Russia is not interested in being appreciated for what it is doing in Syria but it does “need cooperation”.

“Three years ago we put a proposal on the table, it’s still on the table, we really want closer cooperation on Syria and we really need it.

“We can resolve all these problems by picking up the phone not by force.”

Syrian civilians gather for their evacuation from the town of Arbin in Eastern Ghouta on Sunday
Image:Syrian civilians gather for their evacuation from the town of Arbin in Eastern Ghouta on Sunday

Ms Zakharova said all she wants is peace and she “cannot understand why American politicians are still blind to what we’re trying to propose to them, we’re trying to propose cooperation”.

“Is it so difficult to understand that Russia wants cooperation with the whole world and wants peace. Is it so impossible to take this as it is?”

The spokeswoman pointed out that before the Syrian civil war started President Assad spent much of his life in Britain, where he trained as an ophthalmologist before becoming heir apparent when his elder brother died in 1994 then taking over from his father who died in 2000.

She said: “Before chemical disarmament Mr Assad was the best friend not of Moscow, but of London and Washington, Mr Kerry when he was in the senate – he was in a friendly relationship with Mr Assad.

“Assad spent much of his life in Britain, he’s not our guy, he’s much more your guy.”

And she claimed that Russia just wants to stop terrorism in Syria “because we’re much closer to Syria than the US” and they do not want to let terrorists go from Syria into Russia.

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