The war of words between the U.S. and Russia over Syria just escalated chillingly:
A Russian news presenter, dubbed the “Kremlin’s chief propagandist”, has warned the United States any “impudent behaviour” towards Moscow could have “nuclear” implications.
Dmitry Kiselyov, who was appointed by Vladimir Putin to head the country’s government-owned news agency, made the warning on Monday night’s edition of his flagship current affairs programme Vesti Nedeli (News of the Week).
Relations between the two countries hit a new low on Friday after Washington accused Moscow of war crimes following a sustained bombardment of the besieged Syrian city Aleppo, where at least 250,000 people are still living in the rebel-held east of the city.
According to Kiselyov, there has recently been a “radical change” in the relationship between Russia and the U.S.:
“The loud talk in Washington of a ‘Plan B’ for Syria. Everyone understands what this means: direct military force in Syria,” he said.
During Monday’s programme a Russian defence ministry spokesman also warned US bombers not to target the Syrian army. “We’ll shoot them down,” commented Mr Kiselyov.
Mr Kiselyov is a key part of Russia’s media operations and has been described as a “militant anti-Westerner” by Russian media and the county’s “chief propagandist”. He is also subject to Western sanctions.
In the past he has boasted that Russia was the only single country “genuinely capable of turning the USA into radioactive ash” and claimed last year: “In Syria, America stands on the side of the terrorist caliphate”.
Here’s the thing. Kiselyov wasn’t speaking off his own bat. It’s pretty certain that every word was first approved by the Kremlin.