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April 11, 2017 | Uhuruspirit

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned of future chemical weapons "provocations" in Syria to frame President Bashar al-Assad, just as Washington's top diplomat arrived for talks in Moscow.

"We have information from various sources that such provocations -- I cannot call them otherwise -- are being prepared in other regions of Syria, including in the southern outskirts of Damascus, where they are again planning to throw some kind of substance and accuse Syrian official authorities of using it," Putin said at a televised press conference.

He said Russia was set to appeal to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and "call on the international community to thoroughly investigate such incidents".

Putin insisted that reports over the suspected chemical attack in Syria that killed dozens of people in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun last week was reminiscent of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, justified by the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction.

"This ended with the country's destruction, with the growth of the terrorist threat and the appearance of the Islamic State on the international stage, no more, no less," he said.

Russia's defence ministry also said it had information that rebel fighters were bringing "poisonous substances" to the areas around the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun and Eastern Ghuta, among other places.

"The goal of these actions is to create yet another reason to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons and provoke new strikes by the United States," it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Monday that “no meeting with Tillerson” was booked “in the president’s diary.”

Tillerson is due to arrive in the Russian capital on Wednesday, where he is expected to have a tense meeting now only with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

While Peskov did not say why Putin would not be receiving Tillerson, the recent US missile strike on a Syrian airbase is highly suspected of being the reason why.

US President Donald Trump, who during his presidential campaign and early in his presidency strongly advocated close engagement with Russia on Syria, ordered the missile strike on the Syrian airbase on Friday, angering Moscow.

- with AFP/PTV

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