The Syrian rebels are “cannibals” and should not be given arms, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday.
"I think you will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines, in front of the public and cameras," Putin said at a joint press conference in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Putin was referring to video footage posted on the Internet last month of a rebel fighter eating the heart of a government soldier.
"Is it them who you want to supply with weapons?" he said, adding that this behavior does not correspond with international humanitarian norms.
Putin’s comments mark the first time that he has publicly responded to a decision by the United States last week to provide arms for the rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Russia is an open supporter of Assad and has indicated that it plans to provide him with advanced missile systems.
The U.S. government announced on Thursday that the Syrian army used chemical weapons against rebel forces on multiple occasions, adding that America will increase the “scope and scale” of its assistance to rebels in Syria in response.
An aide to Putin said on Friday that Russia is not convinced by the evidence which the U.S. provided alleging that the Assad government used chemical weapons against rebel forces.
“The Americans tried to present us with information on the use of chemical weapons by the regime, but frankly we thought that it was not convincing,” the aide, Yury Ushakov, said.
On Sunday, The Independent reported that Iran is sending 4,000 new troops to help Assad crush rebel forces in the country’s ongoing civil war.
The report in warned that the U.S. decision to arm rebels “has plunged America into the great Sunni-Shia conflict of the Islamic Middle East… the U.S. is now fully engaged on the side of armed groups which include the most extreme Sunni Islamist movements in the Middle East.”