Russia has dramatically slammed American threats to attack Syria, dismissing claims that the regime has used chemical weapons as “utter nonsense.”
Speaking out for the first time since an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, Putin warned President Obama to find a nonviolent way out of the crisis and demanded that the United States provide proof.
If the Americans have evidence of chemical weapons having been used they should present it to the United Nations inspectors and the U.N. Security Council, he said.
"If there is evidence it should be presented," Mr Putin said. "If it is not presented, that means it does not exist."
“I would like to address Obama as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate: Before using force in Syria, it would be good to think about future casualties,” Putin told Russian news agencies in Vladivostok.
“Russia is urging you to think twice before making a decision on an operation in Syria,” he said.
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His comments came as United Nations weapons inspectors have left the country after spending four days investigating the alleged chemical weapons attack. Their early withdrawal from the country has sparked speculation about a potential US strike in the coming days.
Putin said he was sure the attack was the work of rebels trying to provoke international — predominately American — involvement in the Syrian conflict.
The regime of Bashar al-Assad, he said, has no reason to use chemical weapons when it has already gained the upper hand in the crisis.
“While the Syrian army is on the offensive, saying that it is the Syrian government that used chemical weapons is utter nonsense,” Putin said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also said a U.S. attack would be a “gross violation” of international law.
The White House argued this week that intelligence shows more than 1,400 people died from exposure to chemical weapons in an attack carried out by the Syrian military.