MOSCOW — Russia’s senior general says that rebels in Syria have acquired shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles, including a model made in the United States. General Staff Chief Nikolai Marakov says that officials need to determine who supplied the weapons to Syria’s opposition.
Interfax news agency quotes General Nikolai Marakov as saying "that militants fighting Syrian government forces have portable missile launchers of various states, including American-made Stingers.”
He did not make any direct accusation of how the rebels acquired the weapons.
In Washington, the Pentagon had no immediate comment. In the past, the U.S. government has denied supplying Syrian rebels with weapons or having any information that American-made weapons are in the hands of rebel forces.
Marakov’s comments are part of a back and forth between Moscow and Washington regarding the conflict in Syria.
Russia has blocked three attempts in the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions against its long-time ally, saying dialogue with both the opposition and the government of President Bashar al-Assad is necessary for peace.
Several Western nations have given the Syrian rebels non-lethal support, but have resisted providing arms. Russia has long been the major supplier of weapons to the Syrian government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledges that the Kremlin is providing its ally with weapons, but says none of the arms can be used in civil conflict.
Last week in Luxembourg, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied a Human Rights Watch claim that Russia was supplying Syria with cluster bombs.
He said there are loads of weapons in the region, including in Syria and other countries of the region, and arms are supplied there in large quantities and illegally.
Last year, Russia sold Syria one billion dollars worth of weapons. Meanwhile, Moscow says it will not back a U.N. Security Council arms embargo because it fears rebels will resort to obtaining weapons illegally.