The Kremlin has issued a rare rebuke to Chancellor Angela Merkel for her comments on Russian air strikes in Syria. EC chief Donald Tusk has echoed Merkel's remarks as the US warns of a growing threat from IS militants.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said German Chancellor Angela Merkel should carefully watch what she says concerning the Syrian crisis.
"We once again call on everyone to be very careful and responsible in their choice of words, given the already delicate situation in Syria now and the Syrian settlement," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.
On Monday, while in Ankara holding talks with the Turkish government, Merkel had said "we are horrified in the face of this human suffering."
But Peskov said Russia had no credible evidence of civilian deaths from air strikes.
On the other hand, there had been no protests over what Peskov called "barbaric actions of terrorists" when they had attacked Syrian forces in the past. "No one made any statements of this kind at the time," he said. He insisted Russia was targeting only Islamist militants.
The main photo above shows Syrian rescuers searching for survivors after an air strike on the rebel-held neighborhood of al-Kalasa in the city of Aleppo last week. Tens of thousands of refugees fled the city and are stranded on the border with Turkey. In Ankara, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned that up to 70,000 people were headed towards his country.
Peskov also declined to confirm the presence of Chechen forces in Syria. In a television documentary interview to be broadcast on Wednesday, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov claimed spies from his region of Russia were being sent to infiltrate the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) group and assist Moscow in its bombing campaign in Syria.
The documentary claimed that "special forces from Chechnya were embedded" in IS training camps to collect intelligence and help to identify targets for Russian air strikes.
According to a report by the Interfax news agency on Tuesday, a source in the Chechen leadership said "there have been people from Chechnya in the conflict zone on the territory of Syria and Iraq since the emergence of IS."
Tusk warns on worsening conflict
Also on Tuesday, President of the European Council Donald Tusk warned Russian air strikes in Syria were making the conflict worse and increasing the number of refugees trying to reach Europe:
"Let me add a comment on Russia, whose actions in Syria are making an already very bad situation even worse," Tusk said after meeting Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili in Brussels. "As a direct consequence of the Russian military campaign, the murderous Assad regime is gaining ground, the moderate Syrian opposition is losing ground, and thousands more refugees are fleeing towards Turkey and Europe."
A delegation from the European Parliament visited a refugee camp in Turkey on Tuesday:
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would seriously consider calls by Germany and Turkey to help tackle the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. He also criticized Russia's involvement in the conflict.
US intelligence chief
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Congress on Tuesday, the head of US intelligence warned that the IS group "has an increasing ability to direct and inspire attacks against a wide range of targets around the world."
"ISIL involvement in homeland attack activity will probably continue to involve those who draw inspiration from the group's highly sophisticated media without direct guidance from ISIL leadership," Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said using an acronym for the militant group.
jm/jil (AFP, dpa, Reuters)