Russia says Syrian ‘chemical attack’ was staged

  1. foreign Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said a reported

chemical attack in Syria was staged by foreign agents.

A spokesman for Russia’s defence ministry accused the UK of

being involved in staging the attack.

The US and France say they have proof it took place and,

alongside the UK, are considering military retaliation.

Russia, which has military forces deployed in Syria in support of

the government, has warned that Western air strikes risk starting

a war.

During a press briefing on Friday, Mr Lavrov said he had

“irrefutable evidence” that the attack was staged as part of a

“Russophobic campaign” led by one country, which he did not

name.

Why is the West considering strikes?

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General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia’s defence

ministry, said: “We have… evidence that proves Britain was

directly involved in organising this provocation.”

The UK’s envoy to the UN has called this a “grotesque, blatant

lie”, Reuters news agency reports.

The White House says it is continuing to assess intelligence and

talk to its allies about how to respond.

Meanwhile the UN’s secretary general has said the Middle East is

“in chaos” and the Cold War is “back with a vengeance”.

Antonio Guterres was speaking to a special meeting of the UN

Security Council, called by Russia.

He urged countries to “act responsibly in these dangerous

circumstances”.

A delegation from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical

Weapons (OPCW) will arrive in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta region on

Saturday. Few details are expected to be released about the

movements of the chemical weapons inspectors, for safety

reasons.

What proof is there of a chemical attack?

The suspected attack, denied by Syrian President Bashar al-

Assad’s government, was carried out in the Eastern Ghouta town

of Douma on Saturday, reportedly killing dozens of people.

Control over the town has since passed from rebels to the Syrian

and Russian military authorities.

The Violations Documentation Center (VDC), a Syrian opposition

network which records alleged violations of international law in

Syria, said bodies were found foaming at the mouth, and with

discoloured skin and cornea burns.

On Thursday, unnamed US officials told NBC News they had

obtained blood and urine samples from victims which had tested

positive for chlorine and a nerve agent.

Syria ‘chemical attack’: What we know

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told the network: “We

definitely have enough proof but now we just have to be

thoughtful in our action.”

French President Emmanuel Macron also said he had “proof” that

the Syrian government had attacked Douma with chemical

weapons but did not give further details.

A UN report last year found the Syrian government responsible for

a deadly chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan

Sheikhoun, in which more than 80 people died.

That attack was followed by a US cruise missile attack on a

Syrian airbase.

How is the West responding this time?

In the UK, cabinet ministers agreed it was “highly likely” the

government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible

for the alleged attack and said the use of chemical weapons

must not “go unchallenged”.

During a phone call on Thursday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May

and US President Donald Trump had agreed to “keep working

closely” on the issue, Mrs May’s office said.

The US president has said Russian President Vladimir Putin bears

responsibility for the alleged attack in Douma because of his

support for the Syrian government.

On Wednesday he warned Russia that missiles were “coming” but

later tweeted that he had “never said when”. It “could be very

soon or not so soon at all”, Mr Trump said .

What can Macron and Trump do?

The significance of Eastern Ghouta’s fall

Why is there a war in Syria?

What is Russia saying about the risk of war?

Russia has described the reports of a chemical attack as a

“provocation” designed to justify Western intervention.

Moscow’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused Washington

of putting international peace at risk.

“The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war,” he said on

Thursday.

Senior Russian figures, including the head of the military, have

warned that US missiles will be shot down and their launch sites

targeted if Russian personnel come under threat.

On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich criticised Mr

Trump’s rhetoric.

“We cannot depend on the mood of someone on the other side

of the ocean when he wakes up,” the Tass news agency quoted

him as saying.

After six weeks of heavy fighting and an estimated 1,700 civilian

deaths in the Eastern Ghouta, rebels are now leaving the area.

The final evacuations of about 4,000 remaining Islamist fighters

and civilians were taking place on Friday, according to the UK-

based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring

organisation.

Related Topics

Syria Russia Syrian civil war United States

Suspected Syria chemical attack United Nations

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