Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will not support new sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, warning that imposing new punishments would hurt efforts to end Syria's six-year-old civil war.
Putin's remarks on February 28 seemed to underscore Russia's stated plan to use its UN Security Council veto to block a bid by Western powers to impose sanctions on the Syrian government for toxic gas attacks.
The 15-nation Security Council was set to vote on the issue later in the day at the UN in New York.
Talking to journalists in Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, Putin said that sanctions "are not acceptable now as they would hinder the talks process."
"Russia will not support any new sanctions against Syria," he said.
The expected Security Council vote, which pits Assad's backer, Russia, against the United States and its European allies, follows the start last week of a new round of UN-led Syria peace talks in Geneva.
The Geneva talks follow a round of negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan, sponsored by Russia, Turkey, and Iran.
Russia has vetoed six council resolutions on Syria since the conflict started in 2011 with a violent government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
Britain and France first circulated the draft resolution in December, after a UN investigation concluded that the Syrian Air Force had dropped chlorine barrel-bombs from helicopters on three opposition-held villages in 2014 and 2015.
Assad's government has denied using chemical weapons, and Russia said the evidence found in the UN investigation was not enough proof for the council to take action.
Last week, Russian Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said that Moscow would veto the resolution.
Russia has given the Syrian government crucial diplomatic and military backing throughout the war, and helped turn the tide of the conflict in Assad's favor by launching a campaign of air strikes against his opponents in September 2015.
With reporting by Interfax, TASS, AP, and Reuters