Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has hit out at the Nato-led air strikes in Libya, saying attacks on Muammar Gaddafi’s palaces indicate the aim is to kill the Libyan leader.
On Monday, Nato bombs hit a building in Gaddafi’s official residence in Tripoli, in what the Libyan government maintained was an assassination attempt.
Nato has denied it is trying to kill the Libyan leader.
“There was talk about a no-fly zone. OK. But where’s the no-fly zone if every night they’re bombing palaces where Gaddafi lives?” Putin said during a visit to Denmark.
“They say: ’No, we don’t want to destroy him.’ Then why bomb the palaces? Is that how they drive out the mice?”
The commander of Nato’s operation, Canadian Lt Gen. Charles Bouchard, said today the attack on the presidential complex in Tripoli was aimed at an army command centre and denied it was an attempt to kill Gaddafi.
Bouchard said the complex is “a military compound in which there are various houses and residences ... and various military command and control nodes throughout.”
Putin accused the nations taking part in the Nato-led operation of straying from the UN mandate to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians.
“Now several officials are saying: ’Yes, we’re trying to destroy Gaddafi.’ But who allowed you to do this? What, there was a trial? Who gave themselves the right to sentence someone to death, regardless what kind of person he is?” Putin said.
He didn’t specify which officials or countries he was referring to.
Russia abstained in the UN Security Council vote last month authorising the military operation in Libya. At the time Putin compared the UN resolution to “a call for a crusade”.
The Russian prime minister said that Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa.
“It begs the question: is this the real source of interest of those who are brandishing their weapons now?” Putin said.
He was speaking at a joint news conference with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, whose country is part of the operation. Denmark’s Air Force said its F-16 fighter jets so far have dropped 285 bombs on 127 missions over Libya.