Disinformation is rife about US plots and rebels’ supposed use of chemical weapons as Putin prepares for final victory

Russia is going to extraordinary lengths to justify in advance the murderous onslaught that observers fear is about to descend on Idlib, a province in north-west Syria that is home to nearly two million internally displaced people. Idlib is the last large populated area outside the control of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s dictator. And Assad, backed by his Russian and Iranian allies, is determined to get it back – whatever the human cost.

In a series of coordinated moves last week, Russian government officials and military spokesmen tried to pre-empt or deflect western opposition to the expected air and ground offensive. Partly it was pure propaganda. Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, accused the US of plotting forcible regime change in Damascus. “Again, we are witnessing serious escalation of the situation,” he claimed.

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Read More Russia softens up west for bloodbath it is planning in Syria’s Idlib province

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