By Jeremy Herb
“We have information that the rebels fighting the Syrian army have shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles of several states, including Stingers made in the United States," Makravo was quoted as saying by Russia’s Interfax news agency, according to Agence France-Presse.
Asked about the reports at a Pentagon press conference Wednesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. wasn’t providing missiles in Syria.
“I have no comment on those reports, and that shouldn't be interpreted as affirmation one way or the other,” Panetta said. “I don't know what the reports are and I certainly don't know of us providing any such missiles in that area.”
A senior defense official told The Hill after the press conference that the Pentagon doesn’t have information to substantiate the Russian claims at this point.
The Obama administration has said it is not supplying arms to the Syrian rebels, instead providing non-lethal aid and communications equipment to the opposition.
The accusation from the Russian military comes after Turkey stopped a commercial plane headed to Damascus from Moscow earlier this month. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the plane was carrying Russian arms, a charge Russia denied.
Makarov suggested the missiles could have wound up in rebel hands the same way.
“For this all kinds of transport could be activated, including civil aviation,” Makarov said, according to AFP. “This is a serious matter.”