Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has warned that Israel’s war in Gaza could spread well beyond the Middle East, saying it was wrong that innocent women, children and old people in the Palestinian enclave are being punished for other people’s crimes.
“Our task today, our main task, is to stop the bloodshed and violence,” Putin said at a Kremlin meeting with Russian religious leaders of different faiths on Wednesday, according to a Kremlin transcript.
The Russian president, who has been leading an all-out war in neighbouring Ukraine since February last year, said he told other world leaders in phone calls that if Israel’s military campaign in Gaza did not stop, there was a risk of a much wider conflagration.
“Further escalation of the crisis is fraught with grave and extremely dangerous and destructive consequences. And not only for the Middle East region. It could spill over far beyond the borders of the Middle East,” he added.
In remarks that criticised the West, he said certain unnamed forces were seeking to provoke further escalation and to draw as many other countries and peoples into the conflict as possible.
The aim, he said, was to “launch a real wave of chaos and mutual hatred not only in the Middle East but also far beyond its borders. For this purpose, among other things, they are trying to play on the national and religious feelings of millions of people.”
Also on Wednesday, Russia and China vetoed a United States-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a “humanitarian pause” to allow aid access, the protection of civilians and a stop to arming Hamas, the group that rules Gaza, and other armed groups in the enclave.