An unidentified senior U.S. official said onMonday that Russia knew Syria was going to engage in a chemical weapons attack before it happened on April 4 in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria.
The official told The Associated Press that a Russian drone was flying over a hospital where the victims were treated.
Only hours later, a Russian-made fighter jet reportedly bombed the hospital in an effort to cover up evidence of chemical weapons. It’s not known if the jet was flown by Russia or Syria because Russia provides Syria with fighter jets.
The official said there is no proof that Russia was part of the chemical attack, but added that a Russian drone would not have been flying over the hospital in a coincidence.
According to the official, the Russians must have had foreknowledge of the chemical attack.
However, a second U.S. official said there has not been a final determination regarding Russian knowledge about the gas attack that killed dozens, including women and children.
According to U.S. officials, chemical weapons were stored at the Shayrat air base, which is where the gas attack is believed to have launched from. The Russians have been known to work with the Syrians at the air base, lending more evidence to the theory that Russia knew that the deadly attack was going to happen.
President Donald Trump ordered an attack of 59 Tomahawk missiles from U.S. Navy destroyers on the air base on April 6.
Col. John J. Thomas, a U.S. military spokesman, said on April 10 that the U.S. is taking extra precautions to protect U.S. troops on the ground in Syria in case the Syrians decide to retaliate.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced on April 10 that Putin will not be meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on April 12 when Tillerson is in Moscow, reports Reuters.
“We have not announced any such meetings and right now there is no meeting with Tillerson in the president’s diary,” Peskov told journalists.
Peskov did not tell reporters why Putin was not going to meet with Tillerson.
Putin often met with Tillerson when he (Tillerson) was the CEO of Exxon Mobil, and gave Tillerson Russia’s Order of Friendship award in 2013.
Peskov suggested that Tillerson would only meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The Russian government has insisted there is no evidence that the Syrian military did the chemical weapons attack, and has called the U.S. bombing of the air base an act of aggression and a violation of international law.
Peskov stated: “Returning to pseudo-attempts to resolve the crisis by repeating mantras that [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] must step down cannot help sort things out.”