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(INTELLIHUB) — Just before U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson landed in Moscow on Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that Russia has received intelligence from “trusted sources” that more chemical attacks are being prepared in the Damascus region for the sake of blaming Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
“We have information from various sources that such provocations — and I cannot call them anything else — are being prepared in other regions of Syria, including in the southern suburbs of Damascus, where they intend to plant some substance and blame the official Syrian authorities for its use,” Putin said during a briefing with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
Putin called for a proper investigation into what happened in Khan Sheikhoun last week, saying that Russia will “call on the international community to thoroughly investigate all those reports and take appropriate action based on the results of such a probe.”
The Russian President also pointed out that the latest U.S. strikes in Syria brought to mind the events of 2003 when US representatives demonstrated at a UN Security Council session the presumed chemical weapons found in Iraq. Those claims were debunked as flawed information to justify support to the Iraqi invasion.
“President Mattarella and I discussed it, and I told him that this reminds me strongly of the events in 2003 when the US representatives demonstrated at the UN Security Council session the presumed chemical weapons found in Iraq. The military campaign was subsequently launched in Iraq and it ended with the devastation of the country, the growth of the terrorist threat and the appearance of Islamic State on the world stage,” he added.
Putin slammed attack in Khan, officially denouncing it as a “false flag” attack.
A separate report on Tuesday from the Russian General Staff stated that anti-Assad militants were transporting toxic agents into several parts of Syria, including Eastern Ghouta, the site of the 2013 chemical weapons incident.
According to Chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operational Directorate, Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, the actions on behalf of the militants are aimed at creating a pretext to blame Assad for chemical attacks and incite further strikes by the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who landed in Moscow on Tuesday for discussions with Russian officials, said that that President Bashar al-Assad’s reign in Syria was “coming to an end,” and warned that Russia was at risk of becoming irrelevant in the Middle East by continuing to support him.
Tillerson’s words come on the heels of UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, claiming that regime change is a possible next step for the Trump administration in Syria.