US accuses Russia of making Syria worse

Syrian government offensives backed by Russian airstrikes have displaced at least 120,000 people in the war-wracked country, a senior US official said Wednesday, accusing Moscow of complicating the situation on the ground.

“Russia’s military intervention has dangerously exacerbated an already complex environment,” Anne Patterson, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Patterson said the Russian airstrikes have so far targeted moderate opponents to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, killing civilians in attacks on civil defense crews, hospitals, centers for displaced persons and ambulances.

“So far, then, this has not been a Russian fight against terrorism so much as an effort to preserve the Assad regime,” she said.

“Neither we nor the Russians know exactly what effect the Russian action will have over the military balance on the ground – the results so far have been mixed, as the opposition puts up a very strong fight,” she said.

But she added that the United States should undertake a “full court press to end the war and get to a political settlement.”

“Regardless of progress towards a political transition, it is our position that given its new involvement in the military situation, Russia has an even greater responsibility to stop immediately the regime’s horrific practice of barrel bombing and use of chlorine gas against its population.”

“The international community looks to Russia to take up that responsibility,” she said.