Russia says US warning of possible Syria chemical attack an “unprecedented provocation”

MOSCOW — A senior Russian lawmaker on Tuesday dismissed the United States’ warning about a potential chemical weapons attack by Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s regime as an “unprecedented provocation,” and the Kremlin called the accusations against “unacceptable.” 

Even U.S. officials seemed surprised by the strongly-worded White House warning, and they told CBS News that while U.S. intelligence had registered new “activity” at a Syrian base where chemical weapons are stored, it was not yet clear whether the Syrian regime might be planning any new attack.

In a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad Monday night, the White House claimed “potential” evidence that Syria was preparing for another chemical weapons attack.

Assad has denied responsibility for an April 4 attack in the rebel-held Idlib province that killed dozens of people, and Russia, Assad’s key backer, sided with him.

Days after that devastating attack, President Trump authorized a missile strike on a Syrian government-controlled air base from which U.S. officials said the Syrian military had launched the chemical attack. As CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan reports, 59 U.S. cruise missiles, each carrying a 1,000-pound warhead, pulverized the Shayrat airfield, and more than a dozen Syrian warplanes with it. 

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.” In comments to state-owned RIA Novosti, he added: “Preparations for a new cynical and unprecedented provocation are underway.”

Speaking later in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Mocow considers “such threats against the Syrian leadership to be unacceptable.”

Ali Haidar, Syria’s “minister for national reconciliation,” told The Associated Press later on Tuesday that the White House statement foreshadowed a “diplomatic battle” that would be…

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