Russians trying to ‘cover up’ what happened in Syria, US officials say; Tillerson arrives in Russia

(Via ABC News)
Russia is trying to “cover up” what happened in the Syrian chemical attack that killed dozens of people, engaging in a campaign of “disinformation” and pointing to a “clear pattern of deflecting blame,” senior administration officials said.

In the wake of the attacks, Russia attempted to shift the blame, suggesting that a terrorist warehouse containing chemical weapons was struck during a Syrian airstrike. The Syrian government denied using chemical weapons.

“This is an opportunity for Russia to choose to stop their campaign of disinformation,” a senior administration official said in a clear shot across Russia’s bow, just before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s meeting with his Russian counterpart.

Senior administration officials briefed reporters at the White House on Tuesday afternoon on newly declassified intelligence that they said disproves Russian claims that the Assad regime did not launch the chemical attack in northern Syria last week.

Tillerson landed in Moscow Tuesday for his first visit as secretary of state.  “Russia has really aligned itself with the Assad regime, the Iranians and Hezbollah,” Tillerson said at a meeting of G-7 foreign ministers in Lucca, Italy, before leaving for Moscow.

“We want to create a future for Syria that is stable and secure. And so Russia can be a part of that future and play an important role, or Russia can maintain its alliance with this group, which we believe is not going to serve Russia’s interest longer term,” he said.

Tillerson said the chemical attack against civilians made the Russians look “not so good,” after Russia helped broker a deal that required Syria to get rid of its chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013.

“Stockpiles and continued use demonstrate that Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on its 2013 commitment,” he said. “It is unclear whether Russia failed to take this obligation seriously or Russia has been incompetent, but this distinction doesn’t much matter to the dead.”

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