The Russian Defense Ministry stated officially on Tuesday it had deployed an S-300 missile system to its Tartus naval base in Syria.
U.S. media reported earlier this week that Russia had sent the S-300 system to Syria at the weekend in its first foreign deployment of a surface-to-air weapon in the civil war-torn country.
“The missile battery is intended to ensure the safety of the naval base … It is unclear why the deployment of the S-300 caused such alarm among our Western partners,” the ministry said in a statement.
More so, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned Russia over use of incendiary weapons in air strikes on the Syrian city of Aleppo, where he said attacks on civilian targets may amount to war crimes.
The situation in besieged, opposition-held eastern Aleppo demanded bold new initiatives “including proposals to limit the use of the veto by the permanent members of the Security Council”, said High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein.
That would enable major powers to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, a step previously blocked by Russia and China.
“Such a referral would be more than justified given the rampant and deeply shocking impunity that has characterized the conflict and the magnitude of the crimes that have been committed, some of which may indeed amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Zeid said in a statement.
When asked how Russia viewed the suggestion of limiting the veto rights of permanent Security Council members, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Negatively”.
Last week Peskov said the Russian air force would continue to support Syria’s authoritarian regime and that what he called the “war on terror” would continue.
Zeid said Syria’s government and its allies had undertaken a “pattern of attacks” against targets protected by international law, including medical units, aid workers and water-pumping stations.
Zeid, a former Security Council president, was not advocating abolishing the veto, but lifting it for very serious cases of international crimes, his spokesman Rupert Colville said.
“Look at Aleppo, look what’s happening. I think you will never have a more compelling case for something serious, action to be taken,” Colville told a U.N. briefing.
According to Reuters, Russia’s U.N. veto power, together with its military involvement on the side of regime Bashar al-Assad, has given it dismal leverage in the Syria crisis, frustrating the United States.