Russia says alleged chemical attack in Syria staged by UK
The Russian Defence Ministry on yesterday accused Britain of staging a fake chemical attack in a Syrian town outside Damascus, a bold charge vehemently denied by Britain as a "blatant lie". The exchange follows the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, and comes amid Moscow's stern warnings to the West against striking Syria.
A day before a team from the international chemical weapons watchdog was to arrive in Douma, just east of Damascus, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said that images of victims of the purported attack were staged with "Britain's direct involvement," without providing evidence.
Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, Karen Pierce, dismissed Konashenkov's claim as "a blatant lie".
Pierce said she wanted "to state categorically ... that Britain has no involvement and would never have any involvement in the use of a chemical weapon."
White Helmets first-responders and Syrian activists have claimed the suspected chemical attack was carried out by the Syrian government on April 7 and killed more than 40 people in Douma, allegations that drew international outrage and prompted Washington and its allies to consider a military response. Moscow warned against any strikes and threatened to retaliate.
Konashenkov released statements he said came from medics at Douma's hospital, saying a group of people toting video cameras entered the hospital, shouting that its patients were struck with chemical weapons, dousing them with water and causing panic. The statement said none of the patients had any symptoms of chemical poisoning.
Konashenkov said that "powerful pressure from London was exerted on representatives of the so-called White Helmets to quickly stage the premeditated provocation".
He added that the Russian military has proof of British involvement, but didn't immediately present it.
"This is grotesque," Pierce said of the Russian statement as she left an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council called by Russia on U.S. threatened military action in response to the alleged attack. "It's some of the worst piece of fake news we've yet seen from the Russia propaganda machine."