On the same day that a Hamas delegation made a rare visit to Moscow to discuss the crisis in Gaza, President Vladimir Putin warned in a speech that the conflict has the potential to spread well beyond the Middle East.
In a Wednesday meeting at the Kremlin, he decried Israel’s indiscriminate airstrikes on the Gaza Strip which have left over 7,000 people, mostly civilians and at least half of them women and children, dead. “Our task today, our main task, is to stop the bloodshed and violence,” said Putin, as cited from an official transcript.
“Otherwise, further escalation of the crisis is fraught with grave and extremely dangerous and destructive consequences.” That’s when the Russian president emphasized, “And not only for the Middle East region. It could spill over far beyond the borders of the Middle East.”
The meeting involved Russian religious leaders of different faiths. In the remarks Putin also blamed the West for sowing the seeds of escalation, and for turning a blind eye as unprecedented rates of civilian casualties mount in Gaza. According to more of Putin’s words:
The aim, he said, was to “launch a real wave of chaos and mutual hatred not only in the Middle East but also far beyond its borders. For this purpose, among other things, they are trying to play on the national and religious feelings of millions of people.”
He said certain “unnamed forces” were behind this broader destabilization campaign. Putin has in prior years condemned Washington’s illegal occupation of sovereign Syrian territory as well, and Russian and US military convoys have on occasion come close to clashing on several occasions in past years.
Putin denounced Hamas’ Oct.7 attack on southern Israeli communities as terrorism, but also decried Israel’s bombing campaign which has left much of Gaza in ruins, as Reuters reports:
He made it clear though that he thought Israel was wrong to keep bombing Gaza in retaliation for the slaughter and hostage-taking of Israeli citizens by Hamas.
“It is also clear to us that innocent people should not be held responsible for crimes committed by others,” said Putin.
“The fight against terrorism cannot be conducted according to the notorious principle of collective responsibility when old people, women, children, entire families and hundreds of thousands of people are left without shelter, food, water, electricity and medical care,” Putin continued.
In the hours after Putin’s remarks, the Pentagon launched significant airstrikes against what the US has called ‘Iran-linked militants’ in Syria, raising the stakes higher, given Russia also maintains a military presence inside Syria, but at the invitation of the Assad government (since 2015).
A curious journalist asks, “So you were able to quickly determine that “Russia was striking civilians”, but you cannot make the same call regarding Israel committing war crimes?”
The State Department spokesman responds, “The United States is not ready to determine whether the… pic.twitter.com/fIeBR4dbT4
— Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil (@ivan_8848) October 27, 2023
Meanwhile, Moscow and Washington continue to square off at the UN Security Council, vetoing each other’s resolutions:
The U.N. Security Council failed again Wednesday to adopt a unified position on stopping the carnage in the Middle East, with the United States and Russia vetoing each others’ resolutions.
In charges and countercharges reminiscent of Cold War debates and more recent discord over Ukraine, Moscow and Washington charged each other with bad faith, political posturing and pushing their own positions on other council members without consultation.
The Russian side has charged the Biden administration with not being genuine in its proposals for humanitarian corridors in Gaza. Moscow has also said the US doesn’t want peace or ceasefire, as the death toll mounts. Critics of Washington policy on Israel have said the US has given Tel Aviv a blank check, akin to what’s happening in Ukraine.