The United States suspects Russia of supplying Syria with combat helicopters that will be used against peaceful protesters, the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
“We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” Clinton said.
She once again said that the United States wants Russia to stop supplying Syria with all kinds of weapons.
“We have confronted the Russians about stopping their continued armed shipments to Syria. They have from time to time said that we shouldn’t worry, everything they’re shipping is unrelated to their actions internally. That’s patently untrue,” Clinton added.
However, Capt. John Kirby, a spokesman for the Pentagon, told a daily press briefing on Tuesday that the U.S. intelligence service has no information on the type of helicopters the Syrian authorities use against the protesters and denied to confirm that the aircraft comes from Russia.
Russian President Vladmir Putin said in early June that Russia was not supplying arms to Syria which can be used against protesters. “As for arms supplies, Russia is not supplying arms that could be used in civil conflicts,” Putin said during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin last Friday.
Syria is one of Russia’s major weapons clients, and Moscow has opposed a proposal for a UN arms embargo on Damascus.
Russia has supplied Syria with Bastion coastal missile systems with Yakhont cruise missiles and Buk surface-to-air missile systems under a contract signed in 2007.
According to UN estimates, about 10,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, which started with peaceful protests but has since grown increasingly militarized.