Russia hit out at Western powers on Friday over what it said was an “unacceptable” attempt to blame Moscow for worsening violence in Syria.
“Attempts by certain Western countries to hold Russia responsible for an escalation in the violence in Syria over its refusal to back a resolution containing threats of sanctions against the Syrian authorities are totally unacceptable,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich told journalists.
The comments came after the rebel Free Syria Army said it had taken control of the country’s border crossings with Turkey and Iraq. Fierce fighting raged in Damascus overnight, with over 300 deaths, according to London-based Syrian rights activists.
Russia and China vetoed a Western-backed UN resolution on Syria on Wednesday over fears that it would lead to foreign military intervention in the Middle East country, a stance that United States envoy to the United Nations Susan Rice called "paranoid if not disingenuous.”
The resolution was tied to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which would have provided for the use of force to put an end to the rapidly escalating conflict.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Russia and China were “on the wrong side of the Syrian people, the wrong side of hope for peace and stability in the region."
Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, condemned Russia and China over their veto as "inexcusable and indefensible,” and said the two countries had “turned their backs on the people of Syria in their darkest hour.”
But Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin accused the West of thinking only of "its own geopolitical interests, which have nothing in common with those of the Syrian people."
This was the third time that Russia and China had vetoed a UN resolution on Syria since the start of the now-almost 17-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. Russia says it has no interest in seeing Assad remain in power, but that his fate should be decided by “the Syrian people.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed earlier this year not to allow a repeat of the “Libya scenario" which saw the ouster and murder of long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi after a NATO military campaign.
Syrian authorities denied reports on Friday that Assad was preparing to stand down. The denial came after Russia’s ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, told French radio that Assad was ready to leave office in "an orderly way."
The United Nations, quoting Syrian rights activists, says some 16,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the revolt.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukashevich also said a decision by the U.S. House of Representatives to vote to cut the Pentagon's arms contract with Russian state state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport over its links with “the oppressive Syrian regime” was “revenge” for Moscow’s veto.
He also dismissed rumors that Assad’s wife had fled to Moscow following the death of the country’s defense minister in a suicide blast in Damascus on Wednesday.