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By Russ Read
The British government wants to impose new sanctions on Russia in response to the Syrian government’s chemical attack on its own civilians.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson planned a Monday visit to Moscow, but canceled last week. He told The Sun, a British tabloid, that he hopes the sanctions will deter Russian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close Russian ally.
“We cannot miss this moment. It is time for Putin to face the truth about the tyrant he is still propping up,” Johnson told The Sun. “He must now understand that Assad is now toxic in every sense. He is poisoning the innocent people of Syria with weapons that were banned 100 years ago. And he is poisoning the reputation of Russia.”
Johnson is expected to raise the sanction issue with fellow foreign ministers at an upcoming G-7 summit. The G-7, or Group of Seven, is comprised of the world’s seven major advanced economies, including: the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
More than 70 people were killed and hundreds more were injured in Tuesday’s sarin gas attack in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. President Donald Trump ordered retaliatory strikes against Syria’s al-Shayrat airfield in response. Aircraft based at the airfield are believed to have been responsible for the chemical attack.
Russia has stood by Assad, denying he was responsible for the attacks. Russia and Iran claimed that Trump’s strikes crossed their “red lines” in Syria, and that any further military actions will be met with force.
“What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well,” said the Syria-Russian-Iranian alliance’s joint command center in a statement Sunday.
Trump’s strikes offer Western leaders an opportunity to push out Assad, according to Johnson.
“There is no doubt that this U.S. action is a game changer in Syria. We need to make it clear to Putin that the time to back Assad has gone. By continuing to support a man who gasses his own people he is damaging Russia further in the eyes of the world,” said the foreign minister.