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US warns over claim Russia 'building Syrian military base'

John Kerry (left) spoke to Sergei Lavrov (right) by telephone. Credit: Parspix/ABACA

The United States has expressed concern over reports that Russia has been increasing its military presence in Syria, the State Department says.

In a phone call to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Secretary of State John Kerry said media claims that Russia appears to be building a military base in the country would "further escalate" the Syrian civil war if true.

The New York Times quoted unnamed US officials as saying that Russia had dispatched a military advance team to Syria and had sent temporary housing units to the port city of Latakia that suggested up to 1,000 advisers or other military personnel could be housed there.

The report claimed that while there was no indication of an intention to deploy significant Russia ground forces, the base could be used to transport military supplies or as a launching pad for air strikes supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia has been one of Assad's only allies on the international scene, backing the leader throughout the country's four-year war.

The US, like Britain, favours a political transition to see him removed from power.



MH17 debris 'may include Russian-made missile system'

Debris recovered from the crash site of flight MH17 in Ukraine may belong to a Russian-made missile system, Dutch investigators have said.

Investigation teams were originally delayed in gaining access to the crash site in Donetsk after the plane downed in July 2014. Credit: Press Association Images

The prosecutors from the joint international criminal investigation believe the fragments are from the BUK surface-to-air missile system.

The debris has been passed to the Dutch Safety Board, which is carrying out the civilian investigation into the July 2014 crash.

All 298 people on board the Malaysia Airlines flight died when the plane downed over territory held by pro-Russian rebels.

Litvinenko suspect given final deadline to give evidence

Dmitri Kovtun is due to give evidence at the inquiry into Alexander Litvinenko's death in 2006 Credit: Reuters

A suspect in the killing of Alexander Litvinenko,has been given until 9am today to give evidence to the inquiry into the Russian spy's death.

Dmitri Kovtun, has been accused of "manipulating" the probe after he was due to start giving testimony from Moscow by video link on Monday but has failed to do so as yet.

Alexander Litvinenko died after being poisoned with radioactive material. Credit: PA

Mr Litvinenko, 43, died nearly three weeks after consuming tea laced with polonium-210 in London in November 2006.

Police concluded that the fatal dose was probably consumed during a meeting with Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi at a hotel in central London.

Mr Kovtun had asked to give evidence but gave the inquiry a string of reasons why he was unable to in the days before he was due to appear again earlier this week.

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