The appearance of cruise missile carriers in the Middle East has sparked alarm from Russian military officials that a strike from the United States against Syrian government forces could be imminent.
The warning came from Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov on Monday who said new developments in the region were cause for alarm.
“The United States keeps building up the cruise missile carriers group in the Middle East as part of preparations for another provocation in Idlib province to be presented as an alleged use of chemical weapons,” he said.
Konashenkov said Western forces were preparing to frame a chemical attack as a precursor for involvement, Russian news agency RT reported.
“Foreign specialists” had arrived in the country to use “poisonous agents” and frame government forces, Konashenkov said.
” … These preparations are fresh confirmation of US intentions to use as a pretext a likely simulation of the government forces’ chemical attack, which Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants are plotting with active support from British secret services,” he said.
The military spokesman’s accusations follow an April chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma. It is alleged that the attack, which killed at least 70 people, was carried out by the Syrian government. Both Russia and Syria called the attack a “fabrication”.
Konashenkov stated the USS Ross, a guided-missile destroyer, entered the Mediterranean on Saturday armed with 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles which were capable of hitting any target in Syria.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, up to 17 Russian warships have crossed the Bosphorus Strait toward Syria in response this week.
The military movement from both the US and Russia coincides with an anticipated attack on the one of the final rebel strongholds in Syria. Aljazeera reports more than three million people in Idlib are bracing for impact as pro-government forces plot an attack on the north-western city. Half of the city’s population are internally displaced and neighbouring Turkey warns of a humanitarian crisis if an assault from the Syrian government occurs.