Source: CNN – by Tim Hume (McCain slams Russia: ‘Mr. Putin is not interested in being our partner’)

A day after Russia’s prime minister spoke of a renewed “Cold War” between his country and the West, a senior U.S. senator accused Moscow of treating Syria “as a live-fire exercise” for its military as it sought to carve out a sphere of influence in the Middle East.

Speaking Sunday at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, U.S. Sen. John McCain criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria’s nearly five-year civil war.

“Mr. Putin is not interested in being our partner,” said McCain, chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee, adding that the Russian president wanted to “shore up the Assad regime.”

Since intervening in the Syrian conflict in September, Russia has pursued a devastating air campaign from Hmeymim air base in Syria’s Latakia province, which has helped swing momentum in favor of Syrian President [psychopath] Bashar al-Assad.

McCain continued: “He wants to re-establish Russia as a major power in the Middle East. He wants to use Syria as a live-fire exercise for Russia’s modernizing military, he wants to turn Latakia province into a military outpost from which to harden and enforce a Russian sphere of influence — a new Kaliningrad, or Crimea — and he wants to exacerbate the refugee crisis and use it as a weapon to divide the trans-Atlantic alliance and undermine the European project.”

Russia annexed Crimea, where it has a critical warm-water naval base in Sevastopol, from Ukraine in 2014, and gained possession of the seaport of Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, from Germany at the end of World War II.

The comments came amid increasing criticism of Russia’s actions in Syria, in the wake of a ceasefire agreed to by world powers Friday, the details of which are still being worked out.

Western powers and Syrian opposition groups say Russia is bombing civilians and undermining any prospects for peace — accusations that Russia denies.

Riad Hijab, former Syrian prime minister and head of the main Syrian opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee, said in Munich on Sunday that there had been “58 clear massacres committed by the Russian military against Syrian civilians alone in the last 10 days.”

He later reiterated: “The action that I see is that Russia is killing Syrian civilians.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Munich on Saturday that Russia’s strikes in Syria had been largely “against legitimate opposition groups.”

And McCain continued the criticism Sunday, saying that the recent agreement on a cessation of hostilities would require “opposition groups to stop fighting, but … allows Russia to continue bombing terrorists which it insists is everyone, even civilians.”

“Russia has indiscriminately bombed civilians and moderate opposition groups for months with impunity,” he said.

McCain slams Russia: ‘Mr. Putin is not interested in being our partner’

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