Russia takes side of Democratic 2020 candidate in row with British investigator over war crimes

Russian embassy in South Africa tweets message of support for 2020 candidate as investigator debunks her stance on Syria conflict

Chris Riotta
New York
Monday 05 August 2019 21:27
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Kamala Harris calls Tulsi Gabbard apologist for Syrian president who kills his citizens 'like cockroaches'

Russia has publicly supported 2020 Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard after a British investigative journalist covering the Kremlin described her stance on the Syrian conflict as “self-contradictory” and an “error filled mess”.

In a tweet posted on its account on Monday morning, the Russian embassy in South Africa appeared to support the Hawaii Democrat while attacking Eliot Higgins, founder of the open source investigative site Bellingcat, which has investigated the country’s involvement in the Syrian airstrikes, as well as the downing of the MH17 passenger plane over Ukraine and the poison attack against former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury last year.

“Bellingcat’s @EliotHiggins is spam-attacking US Presidential candidate @TulsiGabbard for posing questions to the MSM-propelled narrative on the alleged #Douma incident,” the Russian embassy wrote on Monday, adding the hashtags #THoughtPolice and #ElectionMeddling.

“Ms Gabbard visited #Syria herself, unlike certain bloggers,” the tweet added.

The embassy’s criticism came after Mr Higgins published a report over the weekend about apparent inconsistencies listed on a page featured on the congresswoman’s 2020 campaign website about chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The page featured sceptical statements about the attacks made by at least one researcher who has since completely rejected their previous claims, more recently saying that “no competent analyst would miss the fact” that a reported sarin attack happened as it was described by the international intelligence community.

Mr Higgins described the research Ms Gabbard’s campaign used as “fake intelligence, dodgy dossiers, and lies” after debunking virtually every point listed on the Democrat’s website with photo and video evidence, as well as hospital records and other documentation.

“You guys are supposed to be more subtle about your preferences,” John Sipher, a veteran of the CIA’s national clandestine service, wrote in response to the Russian embassy’s tweet.

The embassy’s tweet, which referred to the recently reported attacks as “the alleged #Douma incident”, came as Ms Gabbard's stance on the Syrian conflict causes controversy on the campaign trail.

Kamala Harris, a leading 2020 Democratic candidate whose prosecutorial record Ms Gabbard attacked at last week’s presidential debates, has called the Hawaii congresswoman an “apologist” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Ms Gabbard has “embraced” the Syrian president and “refuses to call him a war criminal”, Ms Harris said, adding: “I can only take what she says in her opinion so seriously.”

The congresswoman, who served in Iraq and has been critical of US military intervention, said in February during an interview with MSNBC that “Assad is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States".

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Ms Gabbard has meanwhile defended herself over similar attacks, saying she will “never apologise for doing all that I can to prevent more of my brothers and sister from being sent into harm's way to fight counterproductive regime change wars".

“If that means meeting with a dictator, or meeting with an adversary, absolutely, I would do it,” she added.

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