Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow "does not exclude" supporting a UN resolution on military strikes against Syria if it is proved Damascus used poison gas on its own people.
"If we will get objective, precise information about who committed this crime, then there will be a reaction,” he said. “But, right now, to propose so early that we will do this or that would not be correct.” Putin said Russia occupies a “principled position” that the use of weapons of mass destruction is “a crime."
He made the comments in far-ranging interviews with the AP and Russian TV's First Channel in Novo-Ogaryovo on the eve of a G20 summit in St. Petersburg.
U.S. Senate Committee Draft
The comments come amid a U.S. Senate committee agreement September 3 on a draft resolution authorizing military force in Syria to punish Damascus for a suspected chemical weapons attack.
According to press reports, the resolution would bar U.S. ground troops from combat operations and sets a maximum deadline of 90 days for any action.
The text is expected to be put to a formal vote by the full committee later on September 4.
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for limited strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, but said he would first seek Congressional approval. Washington says the August 21 chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus involved sarin gas and left hundreds dead.
'Regret' Over Cancellations
In the interviews, Putin expressed regret over U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to cancel a meeting with him in Moscow ahead of the G20 summit but downplayed the significance, saying it was not a "catastrophe."
Putin said he hoped the two men would hold serious talks on Syria and other issues in St. Petersburg.
One of those issues is the situation of former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who has received temporary asylum in Russia. Washington is seeking Snowden's extradition to face trial for leaking sensitive information about U.S. global monitoring efforts.
Putin said Snowden would not be extradited since there is no extradition agreement between Moscow and Washington. Putin added that Snowden had not provided any secrets to Russian authorities.
Putin also spoke about Russian domestic affairs. He mentioned the upcoming elections for Moscow mayor and took the opportunity to criticize opposition candidate Aleksei Navalny.
While saying he would work with whoever wins the election, Putin noted that acting Mayor Sergei Sobyanin was leading according to pre-election polls and said Navalny "brings problems wherever he appears."
Putin said, "They say [Navalny] stole alcohol, or an alcohol plant, there are some problems with timber, and he also turned out to have firms abroad that he failed to declare."
Putin also responded to criticism about recent laws that are widely viewed as against homosexuals. The Russian president said he was ready to meet with representatives of Russia's gay community to discuss their concerns.
Putin also addressed concerns about security at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, saying that being afraid of terrorists "means they have won."
He vowed Russia's security forces would be vigilant and "not give the terrorists a single chance to demonstrate their brutality and hatred of mankind."
Based on reporting by AP, Reuters and First Channel