April 11, 2018 / 3:31 PM / 12 days ago

Russia says tracking U.S. naval movements towards Syria

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian military said on Wednesday it was closely watching the situation around Syria and was aware of the movements of a U.S. naval strike force headed for the Gulf.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman departs with its strike group towards the Middle East from Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, U.S. April 11, 2018. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Danny Ray Nunez Jr./Handout via REUTERS

The U.S. Navy said on Tuesday that the strike group, headed by the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, would set sail for the Middle East and Europe on Wednesday.

The Russian military said the U.S. strike force was due to arrive in the Middle East at the start of May.

“We are attentively tracking the situation unfolding around Syria and in the whole region,” the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement.

It also reacted to a warning of imminent military action in Syria from U.S. President Donald Trump.

“Instead of talking about the coalition’s readiness to fire missiles at Syria, the United States would do better to rebuild the destroyed city (of Raqqa) and provide wide-ranging help to its suffering population,” the ministry said in a statement.

It repeated its assertion that a suspected chemical weapons attack carried out in the Syrian town of Douma had been faked by the “White Helmets” organisation, rejecting Western allegations that Syrian government forces were responsible for it.

Russian military police would enter Douma on Thursday, the ministry said.

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Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Christian Lowe

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