Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answer to a media question during a joint news conference with CIS Executive Secretary Sergey Lebedev and Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov following a meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers

April 7, 2017

Question: Could you comment on the situation in Syria? Have Russian servicemen been injured or military property damaged in the strikes? How will Moscow respond?
Sergey Lavrov: Moscow has already responded. Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov has issued a comment, and the Foreign Ministry has published a comprehensive statement. They are available on the relevant websites and clearly outline our position. I can only add now that it was an act of aggression under a far-fetched pretext. The situation is reminiscent of 2003, when the United States, Britain and some of their allies invaded Iraq without the approval of the UN Security Council and in violation of international law. But they at least tried to provide material evidence to justify the invasion. Colin Powell, my good friend, had been misinformed by the CIA, who gave him a vial with some white substance; it was tooth powder, I believe. He presented this vial at the UN Security Council claiming that it contained anthrax. This time they did not even try to provide any hard facts. They have only shown photographs, again speculating on children and the alleged evidence from various NGOs, including the crooks from the White Helmets, who stage various situations to provoke action against the Syrian Government.
I have mentioned the invasion of Iraq. Approximately 10 years later, Tony Blair, who was UK Prime Minister at the time of the invasion, admitted that they had used misleading intelligence. I don’t know when we will find out the whole truth behind the decision to deliver air strikes at Syria, but I think that we must demand the truth. This is what we will be doing.
Once again, this makes us wonder whether Jabhat al-Nusra, which keeps changing shapes and names, is viewed by our Western partners as an organisation that should be preserved even though the UN Security Council has declared it a terrorist organisation. When the US-led coalition delivered strikes against some ISIS positions during the Obama administration, it spared the territories held by al-Nusra. As we said, there are grounds to believe that the territory in the Idlib Province the Syrian Air Force bombed was controlled by al-Nusra, which had units, weapons and military equipment in the target area. It turned out that there was also a chemical weapons factory there. We provided this information without claiming it to be the ultimate truth. We said that this is the information we have at our disposal and requested that OPCW experts be dispatched to the area to look at the situation on the ground. The US strikes were delivered before the OPCW inspectors went to Syria to investigate the attack. It looks as if the intention was to distract public attention from Jabhat al-Nusra, which is still considered by some as a reserve force for transitioning from talks to the change of government in Syria.
When you stop to think who will benefit from this, the answer is that this will only benefit those who want to derail the Geneva and Astana processes and create evidence, pretexts and motives for moving from a political settlement to the change of government through the use of armed force. Jabhat al-Nusra and those who are cooperating with it – there are many of them – would be useful in this case.
Of course, it is regrettable that this is damaging Russian-US relations, which are already in poor shape. I hope these provocations will not produce irremediable results, although the media are citing joyful statements by former members of the Obama administration to the effect that Russian-US cooperation looks utterly unrealistic after these strikes. I hope they will be brought to shame, although we will draw conclusions from this situation regarding the future of our relations with Washington.
As for possible victims among Russian servicemen, I have no information on this issue. It appears that there were none.