Barbados – The United States on Tuesday accused Russia of “providing clandestine intelligence” to Syria and said it has evidence that Russia was behind the nerve agent attack that killed more than 80 people in a Damascus suburb on April 4.
The US is seeking to find out whether the Syrian government used a chemical weapons attack to justify an offensive by the rebels against the government, a move that has fuelled fears of an international military intervention.
The accusations, which the White House said could “undermine international confidence” in Washington, come after months of Russian military cooperation with Damascus.
Russia, which has been supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels, denied it was responsible for the attack.
The chemical attack on Ghouta in Damascus killed hundreds of people.
The US has accused the Syrian military of carrying out the attack, which Washington has called a “provocation” that violated international law.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would retaliate to any attack that harmed its interests.
“We will do everything to deter any attempt to hurt our interests and interests of the Russian Federation,” Putin said at a news conference in Moscow.US Vice President Joe Biden said Washington would not stand by and watch Assad’s government fall.
The attack has led to the US calling on Russia to cooperate with the United Nations and to release all detainees.
“There’s no question that we need Russia to stand up to Assad, and the Russian military to come out of this and do what it has to do to bring him to justice,” Biden said.US Secretary of State John Kerry said the attack showed that the use of nerve agents was a “new and frightening escalation”.
“It is unacceptable to have to resort to such an extraordinary and unprecedented measure to deter a regime that is doing everything it can to kill and maim civilians,” he said in a statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia had provided a “complete list” of all detainees who have been held by the Syrian authorities and would release them on Thursday.
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has denied responsibility for the chemical attack and has said his forces have the right to defend themselves.
Assad has repeatedly denied that his forces were responsible.
The Syrian government has blamed a “terror” group linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) for the deadly attack.
Russia and the US have long accused each other of arming the rebels, which is considered a threat to their mutual security and economic interests.
The two sides have also clashed over the war in Syria.
Russia’s defence ministry said last week that the US was violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by deploying a Patriot missile system to the southern US state of Georgia, which borders Syria.