Russia on Saturday condemned what it called “barbaric” attacks in Syria, stepping up criticism of rebels a day after an explosion authorities blamed on a suicide bomber killed at least nine people in the capital Damascus.
Russia has protected Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by blocking two U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning a crackdown in which the United Nations says 9,000 people have been killed since March 2011.
In a statement referring to attacks including the Damascus mosque blast, Russia accused opponents of the Syrian government of seeking to scuttle envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, which Moscow has backed in the U.N. Security Council.
“Moscow decisively condemns these barbarous acts,” the foreign ministry statement said. “Attempts by the irreconcilable opposition to increase tension even more and incite violence cause particular alarm.”
“The aim is clear: to ruin a solution in Syria based on Annan’s plan, which has begun to be implemented,” it added, urging all forces inside and outside Syria to “decisively rebuff terrorists” and ensure they receive no support.
Syria’s interior ministry said nine people including security officers were killed at the mosque on Friday. The Russian statement put the number of dead at 10. Syrian state media also reported several other minor explosions in Damascus.
Russia has also urged Assad’s government to adhere to the terms of a ceasefire that began on April 12, but has said rebels bear most of the blame for violations.
Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday accused armed government opponents of carrying out attacks in an effort to provoke foreign intervention, something Moscow vocally opposes.
Russia says NATO misused a U.N. resolution authorising military intervention to protect civilians in Libya to help rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year and has vowed not to let it happen in Syria.
Syria has given post-Soviet Russia its firmest foothold in the Middle East, buying billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and hosting a maintenance and supply facility that is Russia’s only warm-water naval port outside the former Soviet Union. (Writing by Steve Gutterman Editing by Maria Golovnina)