13 April 2018 |Alix Culbertson | Sky News
Watch: Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova speaks to Sky’s Dermot Murnaghan about Syria and the Skripals’ poisoning.
Russia: We will protect our troops in Syria from US missiles
Russia has told Sky News it will protect its people on the ground in Syria if missiles are launched by the US and its allies.
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said Donald Trump’s threat to launch missiles at Syrian forces was a “test for each and every country (with troops in Syria) to protect its people on the ground”.
Russia and Iran are the Assad regime’s allies in the Syrian civil war.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the US and its allies – France, Germany and the UK – should “seriously consider” the consequences of their threats to launch military action in response to an alleged chemical attack carried out on Saturday in Douma, eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus.
Ms Zakharova told Sky News presenter Dermot Murnaghan, in Moscow: “Russia should protect its people on the ground, of course.
“We came to Syria at the invitation of the people. You can see their appreciation on the ground.”
She refused to admit there had been a chemical attack on Douma over the weekend, claiming Russia was “100% sure that that was a clear provocation”.
She claimed to have proof that the White Helmets – the Syrian volunteer organisation which mainly operates in rebel-controlled areas – were responsible.
Analytic monitoring by the Russians has proved that the White Helmets are working with terrorist organisations in Syria, she claimed.
Russia wants experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to go to Syria as “quickly as possible”, with the Kremlin providing help, she added.
Addressing communication between Russia and the US, Ms Zakharova said the fact there had been no US secretary of state for the past two months was an issue.
“We’ve not had contact between two ministers but, of course, we’re holding contacts between the Russian embassy in Washington and the State Department, and between the Russian foreign ministry and the US embassy in Moscow.
“Of course, I hate to say this, but these contacts are rather poor, we need more contacts to make real communication but unfortunately our American partners are cutting all the roots, cutting communications.
“The last consultations on humanitarian issues they just cancelled and the most surprising for us was these consultations were asked for by the Americans. So they just destroyed the consultations they were asking for.”
She added that she was surprised Mr Trump tweeted that Russia should “get ready” because missiles “will be coming, new and new and ‘smart'”.
“I was surprised that such strong messages were sent through social media because this should be a time to phone your partner,” she said.
She said Russia was not interested in being appreciated for its actions in Syria but that it did “need cooperation”.
“Three years ago we put a proposal on the table, it’s still on the table, we really want closer cooperation on Syria and we really need it.
“We can resolve all these problems by picking up the phone, not by force.”
Ms Zakharova said all she wanted was peace and she “cannot understand why American politicians are still blind to what we’re trying to propose to them, we’re trying to propose cooperation”.
“Is it so difficult to understand that Russia wants cooperation with the whole world and wants peace. Is it so impossible to take this as it is?”
The spokeswoman pointed out that before the Syrian civil war started President Assad spent much of his life in Britain, where he trained as an ophthalmologist before becoming heir apparent when his elder brother died in 1994, then taking over from his father who died in 2000.
She said: “Before chemical disarmament Mr Assad was the best friend not of Moscow, but of London and Washington. Mr Kerry when he was in the senate – he was in a friendly relationship with Mr Assad.
“Assad spent much of his life in Britain, he’s not our guy, he’s much more your guy.”