Britain said on Tuesday Russia could be trying to carve out an Alawite mini-state in Syria for its ally President Bashar al-Assad by bombing his opponents instead of fighting Islamic State militants.

Russia and Britain have been trading barbs after British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told Reuters he believed President Vladimir Putin was worsening the Syrian civil war by bombing opponents of Islamic State.

Hammond dismissed Russian criticism that he was spreading “dangerous disinformation”, saying there was a limit to how long Russia could pose as a promoter of the peace process while bombing Assad’s opponents, who the West hopes can shape Syria once the president is gone. […]