Russian President Vladimir Putin has denounced US support for militants in Syria as illegal and ineffective.
“In my opinion, provision of military support to illegal structures runs counter to the principles of modern international law and the United Nations Charter,” he told US media on Sunday ahead of a meeting with President Barack Obama.
The Russian leader said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deserves international support because he is fighting terrorist organizations, Reuters reported.
Putin said that Russia’s support for the Assad government was in accordance with the UN Charter, since “we have been providing assistance to legitimate government entities only.”
Russian support has come in the form of “weapons supplies to the Syrian government, personnel training and humanitarian aid to the Syrian people,” he stated.
The Russian president then pointed to the Pentagon’s $500 million program to train and equip militants in Syria, which US military and intelligence officials have branded as a failure.
“It turns out that only 60 of these fighters have been properly trained, and as few as four or five people actually carry weapons,” Putin said. “The rest of them have deserted with the American weapons to join ISIS,” he said, using another acronym for the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group.
Obama and Putin are set to meet on Monday after Putin’s much-anticipated speech at the 70th UN General Assembly in New York, 10 years after his last speech at the annual event.
According to the Kremlin’s press secretary, Syria will be topping the agenda of the meeting. “If there is enough time,” the Ukrainian conflict will also be discussed, Dmitry Peskov said.
Russia has been beefing up its military presence in Syria, equipping Damascus with advanced military aircraft such as the Mikoyan MiG-31 fighter jets and and other sophisticated equipment.
A secret US intelligence assessment predicts that Russia will launch military strikes in Syria to boost the Syrian government and stop advances by Daesh terrorists.
The intelligence, provided to the White House, says the airstrikes would be carried out by Russian fighter jets that were flown to Syria over the last week,The Los Angeles Times reported.
US officials said Russia moved warplanes to a base near the coastal city of Latakia last week. Russia has also stationed T-90 tanks there, and has increased the number of its military flights to the same airfield.
Moscow’s military support for Assad, however, goes against the current US policy, which calls for the Syrian president’s ouster.