MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said he has not ruled out backing a U.S.-led military operation in Syria if the Kremlin gets concrete proof than an alleged chemical attack on civilians was committed by Bashar Assad’s government.
“I don’t rule this out,” Putin said during a televised interview with First Channel, a Russian federal television network, and the Associated Press. “But I want to draw your attention to one absolutely principled issue: In accordance with the current international law, a sanction to use arms against a sovereign state can be given only by the U.N. Security Council.”
The Obama administration is engaged in a lobbying effort to persuade Congress to back a U.S. strike on Syria without U.N. approval. Late Tuesday, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed on language authorizing U.S. military action against Syria, while ruling out the commitment of U.S. ground forces and limiting the window for an attack to 90 days. A committee vote could come as early as Wednesday.
Putin's interview was recorded Tuesday at his country residence of Novo-Ogaryovo near Moscow, according to the official Kremlin website that posted it Wednesday morning.
The Russian president reiterated that the Kremlin was not impressed with the data presented by Washington on the alleged chemical attack of civilians in a Damascus suburb last month. He said video of murdered children was “horrible” but not proof of the Assad regime’s involvement.
“This footage doesn’t provide answers to the questions I myself put now,” he said. “There is an opinion that [the video] was compiled by the same rebels who, as we know and the U.S. administration recognizes, are connected with Al Qaeda and have always been notorious for their special cruelty.”
Putin maintained that it is unreasonable to think that the Assad regime would resort to chemical