An explosive report from the Associated Press claims that the Russian government knew that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was going to attack civilians.
The report cited an anonymous “senior U.S. official,” who told the AP’s Robert Burns that a drone that was seen flying above a hospital in Idlib province, where the victims of a deadly chemical attack that killed more than 80 people were receiving treatment. The U.S. official said it had been confirmed that the drone in question was Russian, and that shortly after the drone left, an airstrike bombed the hospital, purportedly as an attempt at covering up the fact that chemical weapons had been used on the victims. The anonymous official added that the Russian drone’s actions and movements were too precise to be a coincidence.
This point of view has also been endorsed by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), who said Russia was complicit in the attack as they allegedly knew ahead of time that the attack was coming but didn’t act to stop it from happening.
“I hope that this behavior by Syria, in what clearly is cooperation with Russia and Syria together, will never happen again,” Sen. McCain said on Monday at a conference in Serbia.
In response to the chemical attack, President Donald Trump launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the al-Shayrat airbase in Homs province. However, the Syrian Air Force was able to move most of their fighter jets from the base hours before the attack, and the missiles did minimal damage to the base. The following day, Assad used the same airbase to launch airstrikes against rebel targets.
Pentagon officials admitted that the Trump administration told Russia of the missile launch prior to the attack in order to alert Russian military personnel who may have been in the vicinity. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a close ally of Assad.