British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has accused Russia of being complicit in the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, saying Moscow is to blame for “every civilian death” in a recent suspected chemical attack in the Arab country.
Moscow is responsible “by proxy” for the deaths of civilians as the “principle backer” of the Syrian government, Fallon told British media.
Fallon further accused Russia of not doing enough to stop the conflict that has been raging on since 2011.
“Someone who uses barrel bombs and chemicals to kill his own people simply cannot be the future leader of Syria,” he said of President Bashar al-Assad.
The defense secretary also voiced his support for the US missile strikes that hit an airbase and surrounding villages in the western province of Homs in the early hours of Friday.
On President Donald Trump’s personal order, the US military launched 59 cruise missiles on al-Shayrat airfield in Homs. Trump said the attack was in response to “the Syrian government’s recent chemical attack in Idlib province.”
“By sending Tomahawk missiles to attack the airfield, aeroplane and equipment believed to be involved, it (the US) has sent a strong signal to the Syrian regime to think twice before using gas in the future,” Fallon said.
The remarks came as British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson cancelled a trip to Russia citing a fundamental change to the situation in Syria.
The visit, on Moscow’s invitation, would have been the first by a top British diplomat in the last five years.
Reports suggest that Johnson will instead work with his American counterpart, Rex Tillerson, on a joint plan to demand Moscow withdraw military support for Damascus.
According to the Kremlin, Syrian jets had struck a terrorist warehouse in Idlib that contained toxic chemicals, leading to a gas leak in the area. More than 80 people were killed in Tuesday's incident.
Damascus, which categorically denied responsibility for the suspected chemical attack, slammed the missile attack by the US, calling it a clear sign of Washington’s support for terrorism.
The Syrian government also vowed to intensify operations against foreign-backed militants in the country.
The US attack has sparked angry reactions from Russia and several Middle Eastern countries including Iran.
European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the missile strike was not within the framework of the United Nations.