Vladimir Putin warns the West against arming Syrian ‘cannibals’

By Henry D Gombya

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) with British Prime Minister David Cameron outside No.10 Downing Street yesterday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) with British Prime Minister David Cameron outside No.10 Downing Street yesterday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the West against arming Syrian rebels who are fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad and have been filmed publicly eating human flesh from dead Syrian soldiers.

Speaking outside No.10 Downing Street yesterday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Putin, who is in the United Kingdom to attend the G8 Summit that kicks off today in Lough, Northern Ireland said: “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.” He added: “Are these the people you want to support? Are they the ones you want to supply with weapons? Then this probably has little relation to the humanitarian values preached in Europe for hundreds of years.”

Mr Putin was referring to an incident last month when a Syrian rebel commander was filmed cutting into the torso of a dead soldier and biting into a piece of one of his organs. Both sides have been accused of atrocities in the conflict. Other videos from the war in Syrian have shown both sides capturing fighters and placing the captured men’s head on a piece of wood before chopping it off. In discussions with Mr Cameron, Putin said his country wanted to create conditions that would lead to a resolution of the conflict in Syria. The United States and other countries that aid the rebels say one of the reasons for doing so is to support mainstream opposition groups and reduce the influence of extremists.

The U.S. plan to arm the rebels also places new doubt over plans for an international peace conference called by Washington and Moscow, their first joint attempt in a year to try to seek a settlement. Addressing the press, Mr Cameron said the divide between Russia and the West over Syria could be bridged, although they disagreed about who was at fault. “What I take from our conversation today is that we can overcome these differences if we recognize that we share some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria breaking apart, to let the Syrian people decide who governs them and to take the fight to the extremists and defeat them,” he said. Britain has not said whether it too will arm the rebels, but the issue is contentious even within Cameron’s Conservative-led government. Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister from his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, said:  “We clearly don’t think it’s the right thing to do now, or else we would have done it.”

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