Russia joined UN Security Council members in condemning Syria's government after a massacre in Houla. Some Russian officials speculate the massacre was carried out by rebels to garner sympathy.
For the first time, Moscow has joined other United Nations Security Council members in condemning the Syrian government for violence against civilians. It could signal a deeper shift in Russian foreign policy which, until now, has stubbornly refused to countenance any measures aimed at easing out Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
At least 108 people, a third of them children, died in a weekend massacre in Houla in one of the worst violations of the six-week-old ceasefire authored by UN envoy to Syria Kofi Annan and supported by Russia.
The Syrian government insists that it is not responsible for the mass killings, which it blames on "terrorists." The spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said today that most of the victims had been "executed" with knives and gunfire.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meeting with his British counterpart yesterday, said there was no doubt that the Syrian government had used disproportionate force in a civilian area, and admitted that "Russia has (a) particular role in applying pressure" on Mr. Assad to adhere to Annan's peace plan.