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Clinton accuses Russia of sending attack helicopters to Syria, escalating war

Hillary Clinton says the US has information that a delivery of Russian attack helicopters to Syria is imminent, saying 'such weapons will escalate the conflict quite dramatically.'

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A satellite image of an airfield in Shayrat, Syria shot by a DigitalGlobe satellite and annotated and released to Reuters by the US Government on June 1 shows what US Government officials say are attack helicopters in an image taken over central Syria in May.

DigitalGlobe via the US Government/Reuters

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Russia Tuesday that it risks sending the Syrian conflict into a higher level of violence and volatility by continuing to arm the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad with heavy weapons.

Specifically, the chief US diplomat said she had information indicating that Russia is about to deliver a fresh shipment of attack helicopters to Assad – something she suggested could have significant ramifications not just for Syria but for a region already on edge over the conflict.

“We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria,” Secretary Clinton told an audience at Washington’s Brookings Institution. Adding more of such weapons to the fight “will escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” she said.

Clinton’s comments came a day after the State Department accused the Assad regime of using helicopter gunships in attacking civilian populations in opposition strongholds. It is likely that any attack helicopters Syria is using are from Russia, which is Syria’s principal arms supplier.

The US and Russia have been at odds on Syria since the conflict pitting the Assad regime against an armed opposition broke out in March 2011.  Since then Russia has twice vetoed Security Council resolutions condemning the Assad regime, earning it the disdain of Clinton and other US officials who characterized Russia’s protection of Assad as “despicable,” among other adjectives.

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