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Russia condemns U.S. scheme to arm Syrian rebels

Russian Foreign Ministry building in Moscow
Russian Foreign Ministry building in Moscow

Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticized the Obama administration on Friday for its plans to increase military aid to the “right” militants within the Syrian opposition, according to the Moscow-based news outlet Ria Novosti.

Kremlin officials, concerned the U.S. strategy will further escalate the “bloodletting” in Syria, warned the White House that chances are high such weapons could “fall into the hands of terrorists who may use them anywhere in the world, including against their foreign protectors.”

The statement from Moscow came on the heels of reports in American media sources, including the Associated Press, that the U.S. was considering training and potentially equipping “moderate” rebel elements in an effort to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Earlier today in northern Syria, in a clear illustration of what Moscow fears, fighters from an al-Qaeda-linked militant group killed 15 Kurdish civilians – a death toll which, according to Reuters, included a number of women and children.

Russia and China have staunchly opposed intensifying the violence in Syria and last week vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have referred the conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged war crimes.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin scoffed at the French-drafted resolution, which he characterized as nothing more than “a pretext for armed intervention.”

Human rights organizations have estimated that over 150,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, which began after Assad cracked down on peaceful anti-regime protests. Yet the opposition swiftly became both militarized and radicalized within months while the international community largely neglected non-violent opposition movements.

Although Western politicians and news outlets have persistently banged the drum for arming the rebels, one contrarian voice in Virginia's senate sees Assad as a hero for battling against America’s “arch-enemy” al-Qaeda. Richard Black, a republican state senator from Northern Virginia, praised Mr. Assad in a letter for "protecting Syrian Christians and Jews."

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