Russia Suspends Plutonium Weapons Deal; Putin Warns US of
October 4, 2016
The Associated Press & AntiWar.com & The Associated Press
Russia has warned the United States against carrying out any attacks on Syrian government forces, saying it would have repercussions across the Middle East. A Russian official warned that a US intervention against the Syrian army "will lead to terrible, tectonic consequences." At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday suspended a Russia-US deal on the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium, a move that comes amid escalating tensions over Syria between Moscow and Washington.
Russia Warns of 'Terrible' Consequences
If US Attacks Syrian Government Forces
The Associated Press
(October 1, 2016) -- Russia warned the United States Saturday against carrying out any attacks on Syrian government forces, saying it would have repercussions across the Middle East as government forces captured a hill on the edge of the northern city of Aleppo under the cover of airstrikes.
Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying that a US intervention against the Syrian army "will lead to terrible, tectonic consequences not only on the territory of this country but also in the region on the whole."
She said regime change in Syria would create a vacuum that would be "quickly filled" by "terrorists of all stripes."
US-Russian tensions over Syria have escalated since the breakdown of a cease-fire last month, with each side blaming the other for its failure. Syrian government forces backed by Russian warplanes have launched a major onslaught on rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo.
Syrian troops pushed ahead in their offensive in Aleppo on Saturday capturing the strategic Um al-Shuqeef hill near the Palestinian refugee camp of Handarat that government forces captured from rebels earlier this week, according to state TV. The hill is on the northern edge of the Aleppo, Syria's largest city and former commercial center.
The powerful ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham militant group said rebels regained control Saturday of several positions they lost in Aleppo in the Bustan al-Basha neighborhood.
State media said 13 people were wounded when rebels shelled the central government-held neighborhood of Midan.
Airstrikes on Aleppo struck a hospital in the eastern rebel-held neighborhood of Sakhour, putting it out of service, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees. The American Relief Coalition for Syria (ARCS) said two patients were killed and 13 were injured.
Opposition activist Ahmad Alkhatib described the hospital, known as M10, as one of the largest in Aleppo. He posted photographs on his Twitter account showing the damage including beds covered with dust, a hole in its roof and debris covering the street outside.
Opposition activists have blamed the President Bashar Assad's forces and Russia for airstrikes that hit Civil Defense units and clinics in the city where eastern rebel-held neighborhoods are besieged by government forces and pro-government militiamen.
On Friday, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders demanded that the Syrian government and its allies "halt the indiscriminate bombing that has killed and wounded hundreds of civilians —many of them children," over the past week in Aleppo.
It said from Sept. 21 to 26, hospitals still functioning in Aleppo reported receiving more than 822 wounded, including at least 221 children, and more than 278 dead bodies, including 96 children, according to the Directorate of Health in east Aleppo.
In the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, warplanes of the US-led coalition destroyed several bridges on the Euphrates River, according to Syrian state news agency SANA and Deir el-Zour 24, an activist media collective. The province is a stronghold of the Islamic State group.
Related: Bombs Hit Hospital in Rebel-Held Aleppo
Russia Warns US Attack on Syrian Troops
Would Have 'Terrible, Tectonic Consequences'
US-Imposed Regime Change Would Fill Syrian Government With Terrorists
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(October 2, 2016) -- The Russia Foreign Ministry today issued a statement warning the United States against launching any attacks on the Syrian government, cautioning it would have "terrible, tectonic consequences" not just in Syria but also across the entire Middle East.
Since the collapse of the Syrian ceasefire about two weeks ago, the US has been railing against Russia and Syria, and threatening non-specific "non-diplomatic actions" against them, particularly in the city of Aleppo, where Syrian forces are fighting against the Nusra Front.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in particular cautioned against a US-imposed regime change in Syria, saying it would quickly fill a new government with terrorists of all stripes. Russian officials have repeatedly criticized the US response after the ceasefire, arguing they're overtly backing terrorist groups like Nusra, which is closely aligned with al-Qaeda.
In the lead-up to the failed ceasefire, the US talked of a seven-day pause on striking Nusra territory, leading to joint US-Russia military operations against Nusra, after they were separated from US-backed "moderates." Though the ceasefire did last 7 days, Nusra never separated from the other rebels, and the US quickly ditched the joint operations pledge, and started condemning Syria and Russia for their resumption of strikes against Nusra.
Putin Suspends Weapons-grade Plutonium Deal with US
Vladimir Isachenkov / Associated Press
MOSCOW (October 3, 2016) -- President Vladimir Putin on Monday suspended a Russia-US deal on the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium, a move that comes amid escalating tensions over Syria between Moscow and Washington.
Putin's decree released by the Kremlin cited Washington's "unfriendly actions" and the United States' inability to fulfill its obligations under the 2000 deal as reasons for the move.
However, the decree says that the weapons-grade plutonium that has fallen under the agreement will be kept away from weapons programs.
Under the agreement, which was expanded in 2006 and 2010, Russia and the US each were to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, enough material for about 17,000 nuclear warheads.
When it was signed, the deal was touted as an example of successful US-Russian cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation.
Russia said last year it had started up a plant that produces mixed-oxide commercial nuclear reactor fuel known as MOX from weapons-grade plutonium. Meanwhile, the construction of a similar US plant in South Carolina has been years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
The US administration wants to cancel the Savannah River Site's MOX project and use an alternative method for disposing of excess plutonium.
Putin pointed to the stalled plant earlier this year to accuse the US of failing to meet its end of the deal. He also argued that the policy change would give the US "return potential," or a chance to recycle the material back into the weapons-grade plutonium.
Commenting on Putin's move, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that the US has "done all it could to destroy the atmosphere encouraging cooperation." It cited US sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis and the deployment of NATO forces near Russian borders as examples.
"We would like to bring Washington back to understanding that it can't introduce sanctions against us in areas where it's quite painless for the Americans, and at the same time continue selective cooperation in areas it sees as advantageous," it said.
A strain in US-Russian ties escalated in recent weeks followed the collapse of a truce in Syria and the Syrian army's massive onslaught in Aleppo under the cover of Russian warplanes.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow would be ready to restore the plutonium agreement if the US takes Russian concerns into account.
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