Malta has banned Russian warships from refueling in its ports because it fell victim to the West’s information war, according to Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

"A statement by Malta's Foreign Minister George Vella falls out of line with any diplomatic routine though he stated it many times that the decision was passed independently without any external pressure proceeding from the purposes, which our military pursue," Maria Zakharova said.

It is Moscow's first reported reaction to the Maltese government's decision to stop a Russian ship from berthing to refuel off the island, amid growing opposition to Russia's involvement in the Syrian war. 

Media reports suggested the about turn was prompted by pressure from the American and British governments.

Maria ZakharovaMaria Zakharova

Quoted in Tass, Ms Zakharova did not mince her words in her criticism of Malta's decision, and accused the Maltese minister of falling out of line with any diplomatic routine - even if he claimed that the decision was taken independently without any external pressure.

"The Maltese Foreign Ministry believes that the Russian military machine is committing atrocities in Syria, especially against women and children. These are the total victims of Western propaganda.

"It is an attempt to exert pressure on all fronts and create a certain atmosphere in the information space. Countries, which do not have their own perspective on the situation and an independent foreign policy, are reading this information code and are engaged in open self-censorship not because of any outside pressure but on the basis of media publications for fear that anything may happen," the diplomat said.

George Vella had said Malta will not aid any country participating in the atrocities being perpetrated in Syria but insisted he did not rule out the future refuelling of Russian vessels – not warships – in Malta depending on the circumstances at the time.”

The government originally gave diplomatic clearance for the RFS Dubna to enter Malta between November 4 and 6, but later withdrew the permission. 

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