LONDON, April 9 Britain said on Sunday Russia
bore responsibility by proxy for civilian deaths in Syria last
week caused by a poison gas attack that Washington says was
carried out by the Moscow-backed government of Syrian President
At least 70 people died in what the United States says was a
chemical weapons attack in rebel-held Syria. The attack prompted
the United States to fire 59 cruise missiles into a Syrian air
base from which it said the attack was launched.
Damascus and Moscow denied Syrian forces were behind the gas
attack but Western countries dismissed their explanation that
chemicals leaked from a rebel weapons depot after an air strike.
Russia has warned that the U.S. missile strikes could have
serious consequences for the region. The missile
strikes catapulted Washington into confrontation with Russia,
which has advisers on the ground aiding its close ally Assad.
British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon criticised Russia's
support of Assad, describing the chemical attack as a war crime
that happened "on their watch".
"By proxy Russia is responsible for every civilian death
last week," Fallon wrote in the Sunday Times newspaper.
"If Russia wants to be absolved of responsibility for future
attacks, (President) Vladimir Putin needs to enforce
commitments, dismantle Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal for good
and get fully engaged" with the U.N. peace process on Syria.
Washington has long backed rebels fighting Assad in a
multi-sided civil war that has killed more than 400,000 people
and driven half of Syrians from their homes since 2011.
The United States has conducted air strikes against Islamic
State, which controls territory in eastern and northern Syria,
and a small number of U.S. troops are helping rebel militias.
(Reporting by William James; editing by Mark Heinrich)