The Russian military is bracing for what is seen as an imminent U.S. strike in Syria even as Moscow warned that the attack could trigger a nuclear Armageddon.
In addition to five warships deployed in the East Mediterranean, Russia, in recent days, has sent six more ships to the region, including the guided missile cruiser Moskva.
On Wednesday, Russia placed on heightened alert the Central Command Post of the General Staff, the Aerospace Defence command and the country’s intelligence agencies, Defence Ministry officials said.
Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Valery Gerasimov cancelled a planned visit to Austria on Wednesday, while Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov summoned the U.S. and Israeli military attaches over a test launch of an Israeli missile on Tuesday.
Mr. Antonov described the region a “powder keg” and warned that its fire “may spread, not only to neighbouring states, but to other regions of the world.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a stark warning that a U.S. strike on Syria’s nuclear facilities might result in a nuclear catastrophe.
“If a warhead, by design or by chance, were to hit the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) near Damascus, the consequences could be catastrophic," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.
The region would face the risk of “contamination by highly enriched uranium and it would be virtually impossible to account for nuclear material at the facility, its control and safety,” the Russian statement said.
Moscow urged the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to “react swiftly” and carry out “an analysis of the risks linked to possible American strikes on the MNSR and other facilities in Syria.”
Russia intends to bring up the issue at a 35-nation IAEA board meeting that opens on Monday, the Interfax news agency said.