Sen. John McCain said Friday that Russia "probably" knew about the chemical weapons Syria used in Tuesday's chemical weapons attack and that President Vladimir Putin was "certainly complicit" in committing war crimes in Damascus as well.
"I would imagine that they would probably know about it, since they are allies of Bashar al-Assad, but they are the ones that used the precision weapons against hospitals in Aleppo," the Arizona Republican told Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was referring to the November airstrikes that destroyed four hospitals in eastern Aleppo that left the city with no working medical operations.
Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, U.S.-based Physicians for Human Rights has recorded 382 attacks on medical facilities and hospitals throughout the country.
Of those, 293 were carried out by Assad's forces and 16 were by Russian warplanes, according to the group.
"They are as bad as Bashar al-Assad," McCain said. "They have helped them with the barrel bombs.
"They have bailed them out time after time, but it was Russian aircraft with precision weapons that specifically targeted hospitals, sent drones over them, identified them and then attacked them."
When asked whether Putin had committed war crimes in Syria, McCain responded, "He's certainly complicit."
U.S. military officials said Friday that a drone belonging to either Moscow or Syria was seen over the site of Tuesday's chemical assault, raising questions of whether Russia participated in the attack.
President Donald Trump Thursday ordered the launching of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from two Navy destroyers targeting the government-controlled Shayrat air base in central Syria.
U.S. officials said the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off from the site.
Both Syria and Russia condemned the move Friday as an act of "aggression."
"Bashar al-Assad will not be overthrown by American troops," McCain told Blitzer. "It would be by a trained and equipped Free Syrian Army from a safe zone that would prevail.
"The only reason why Bashar al-Assad is in power today is because of Russia and Iran, certainly not because of Syrians.
"So, I think it's a good beginning," he said of Thursday's strike. "It sends a tremendously important signal.
"I'm glad the president did it, but to think that this is the end — one strike to one field is frankly an inaccurate assessment of the situation."
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