Russian forces will shoot down any US missiles fired at Syria and attack the aircraft or warships they are fired from, the Russian ambassador to Lebanon has warned.
“If there is an American strike, then we… will shoot down the missiles and target the positions from where they were launched,” said Alexander Zasypkin, the Russian envoy to Beirut. “In the past few days, we have seen an escalation towards a significant crisis.”
Mr Zasypkin’s comments, made in an interview with a Hizbollah-affiliated television channel, are the sternest Russian warning yet against American strikes. They go beyond previous threats that Russian troops would use their missile defence systems to shield the Assad regime.
The Russian ambassador spoke as Eurocontrol, the pan-European air traffic control agency, warned civilian airliners to be cautious above the eastern Mediterranean because of the possibility of strikes in the next 72 hours. The agency warned that both missiles launched from aircraft or from naval forces might be launched before the end of the week.
“Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken when planning flight operations in the Eastern Mediterranean,” the agency said in a statement.
The Prime Minister spoke to both Mr Trump and the French President Emmanuel Macron by telephone during which all three agreed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had shown “total disregard” for international laws against the use of such weapons. A Trump official upped the diplomatic tension by describing the chemical attack on Douma, Syria, as “genocide” and saying a military response was “appropriate”.
Mr Macron said the three countries would decide “within days” how to respond and discussed the possibility of hitting Syria’s “chemical capacities”. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: “All options are on the table.”
It came as Russia used its veto power at the UN Security Council on Tuesday evening against a US resolution to create new expert body to determine responsibility for Syria chemical weapons attacks, a move expected to increase the likelihood of US military intervention.
The Telegraph has learnt that no plans have been put in place to recall MPs before Monday, when they will return after the Easter recess, suggesting Mrs May has resigned herself to taking the decision in conjunction with her Cabinet, rather than seeking the support of the Commons. Downing Street issued a more cautious statement than the White House, in which Number 10 said that the chemical attack “if confirmed” would represent fresh evidence of Assad’s “appalling cruelty”.