NATO reports Russian naval buildup amid Syria tensions

Russian media reports indicate there are around 15 Russian navy vessels in the Mediterranean overall. (AP)
Updated 30 August 2018

NATO reports Russian naval buildup amid Syria tensions

  • We will not speculate on the intention of the Russian fleet, says NATO spokeswoman
  • At least eight ships, including a missile cruiser and two missile-carrying submarines, have joined the Russian flotilla over the past three weeks

BRUSSELS: NATO says the Russian navy is building up its presence in the Mediterranean Sea amid growing tensions over the war in Syria.
Russia has provided crucial military support for Syrian government forces, which are expected to mount an offensive in the northern Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the country.
“We will not speculate on the intention of the Russian fleet, but it is important that all actors in the region exercise restraint and refrain from worsening an already disastrous humanitarian situation in Syria,” NATO’s chief spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, said Wednesday.
She says several of the Russian ships are equipped with cruise missiles.
Russian defense officials could not be reached for comment. At least eight ships, including a missile cruiser and two missile-carrying submarines, have joined the Russian flotilla over the past three weeks. Russian media reports indicate there are around 15 Russian navy vessels in the Mediterranean overall.
Moscow has repeatedly alleged that Syrian rebels are preparing a chemical weapons attack in Idlib as a provocation to bring a Western attack on Syrian forces.
The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets said the naval buildup was connected to that prospect. “The United States and its allies have forced Russia to send a powerful sailing group to the Mediterranean,” it wrote on Tuesday.
State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the Russian reports “false-flag-type reporting.”
“We’ve seen that before where they try to put the blame — they try to put the onus on other groups and we don’t buy into that,” she said Wednesday during a regular briefing with reporters in Washington.
Western countries and independent analysts say Syrian government forces have carried out a number of chemical attacks over the course of the seven-year civil war. The US has vowed to respond if Syrian forces use chemical weapons in Idlib. Western countries carried out strikes on Syrian government forces after an alleged chemical attack earlier this year.
Both Syria and Russia deny that government forces have ever used chemical arms.


Iran condemns US show of support for ‘rioters’

Updated 57 min 32 sec ago

Iran condemns US show of support for ‘rioters’

  • Protests erupted in Iran on Friday, hours after it was announced the price of petrol would rise to 15,000 rials a liter
  • ‘The dignified people of Iran know well that such hypocritical remarks do not carry any honest sympathy’

TEHRAN: Iran condemned the United States’ support for “rioters” in a statement issued late Sunday, after two days of violent protests in the Islamic republic against a petrol price hike.
The foreign ministry said that it was reacting to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “expression of support... for a group of rioters in some cities of Iran and condemned such support and interventionist remarks.”
Protests erupted in Iran on Friday, hours after it was announced the price of petrol would rise to 15,000 rials a liter (12 US cents) from 10,000 for the first 60 liters and to 30,000 rials for any extra fuel bought after that each month.
In a tweet on Saturday, Pompeo said in response to the demonstrations that “the United States is with you.”
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi slammed his comments in Sunday night’s statement.
“The dignified people of Iran know well that such hypocritical remarks do not carry any honest sympathy,” Mousavi was quoted as saying.
“The acts of a rioter and saboteur group supported by the likes of (Pompeo) have no congruity with the conduct of the wise Iranian people.”
The statement blasted Washington’s “ill-intent” over its decision to reimpose sanctions on Tehran after the US withdrawal in May last year from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“It’s curious that the sympathizing is being done with the people who are under the pressure of America’s economic terrorism,” Mousavi said.

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