Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized senior US officials including Secretary of State John Kerry in particular for “openly lying” about the status of armed opposition in Syria.
At congressional hearings this week, while making the case for President Barack Obama’s plan for military action in Syria, Kerry told senators that the armed opposition in Syria “has increasingly become more defined by its moderation,” implying that al-Qaeda affiliated groups no longer make up the majority of the militants in the Arab country. “It’s not pleasant for me to see this. While we communicate with them and assume they are decent people, he [Kerry] lies openly. And he knows he lies,” said Putin ahead of Obama’s arrival in St. Petersburg for the G20 summit. Kerry’s assessment of the armed opposition in Syria appears at odds with US and European intelligence sources that assert extremists by far make up the majority of the militant groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Intelligence sources also say the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group al-Nusra Front is better organized and trained among other militant groups in Syria, according to Reuters. State Dept. spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki defended Kerry’s position, calling Putin's comment "preposterous." The United States has claimed the Syrian government was behind a deadly chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus last month, even though there is no evidence linking the attack to the government forces. The Obama administration is preparing to attack Syria under the pretext of the chemical weapons attack. Russia, a key ally of Syria, has strongly rejected the notion of military action. Last month, Obama canceled a summit meeting with Putin after a series of US-Russian disputes, including Moscow’s decision to grant asylum to American whistleblower Edward Snowden.