MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin on Tuesday dismissed the White House's warning that the Syrian government is preparing a new chemical attack and that President Bashar Assad and his military "will pay a heavy price" if it goes ahead, while the Syrian leader visited the Russian military base in Syria and met with Russia's chief military officer.
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that "such threats to Syria's legitimate leaders are unacceptable."
In a stern warning to Assad Monday night, the White House claimed it had detected activity resembling the buildup to a chemical weapons attack that took place on April 4.
Assad has denied responsibility for that attack in the rebel-held Idlib province that killed dozens of people, and Russia, Assad's key backer, sided with him. Days later, President Donald Trump ordered a retaliatory cruise missile strike on a Syrian government-controlled air base.
Peskov criticized the Trump administration for using the phrase "another chemical weapons attack," arguing that an independent investigation into the April attack was never conducted despite Russia's calls for one.
"That is why we do not think it is possible to lay the blame on the Syrian armed forces," Peskov said.
Assad, meanwhile, visited the Russian military base in Syria Tuesday and met there with the chief of the Russian military's General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov. The Russian Defense Ministry said they discussed observing a cease-fire as part of a deal on safe zones in Syria, as well as coordination between Russian air force and Syrian government troops in fighting the Islamic State group and al-Qaida's branch.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, warned in a Twitter post on Monday that "any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people."
Frants Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of the defense and security committee at the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, on Tuesday accused the United States of "preparing a new attack on the positions of Syrian forces."