Published: Wed, April 18, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Russian Federation denies tampering with suspected chemical attack site

Russian Federation denies tampering with suspected chemical attack site

Russian Federation has denied interfering with evidence at the site of a suspected Syrian chemical weapons attack that drew Western military retaliation.

But on Monday, Lavrov told BBC: "I can guarantee that Russian Federation has not tampered with the site".

A fact-finding mission from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is expected to head to Douma, the site of the suspected attack.

"It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site", US Ambassador Kenneth Ward said at an OPCW meeting in The Hague on Monday.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the team's arrival was hampered by the weekend airstrikes.

The Western missile strikes on three chemical weapons sites in Syria represent a relatively small-scale action against Syrian President Bashar Assad and underline the extent of Russia's deterrent posture.

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The chairman of the worldwide affairs committee of Russia's upper house of parliament, Konstantin Kosachev, said the strikes were a violation of worldwide law and probably created to prevent investigators from the global chemical weapons watchdog from doing their work.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia insisted that there was "no credible confirmation of toxic substance use in Douma", adding that "we have information to believe that what took place is a provocation with the participation of certain countries' intelligence services".

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has defended Britain's involvement in the air strikes, saying it was to prevent "further human suffering", as opposition parties said MPs should have been consulted in advance.

"This will reduce the regime's ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons", he added.

Syrian air defenses responded to the joint strikes by the US, France and Britain.

U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Ward levied the accusation against Russian Federation during a closed-door meeting at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

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Under the proposed response by the Russian government, the United States and its allies could also be banned from participating in Russian privatization deals.

Speaking ahead of the PM's statement to the House of Commons, her official spokesman said "early indications are that the action which was carried out has been a success and there has been strong global backing from our allies". Britain's Ambassador Peter Wilson said in The Hague that the United Nations had cleared the inspectors to go but they had been unable to reach Douma because Syria and Russian Federation had been unable to guarantee their safety.

Mr Macron said later that France and the USA shared the same aim in Syria: the defeat of the Islamic State group.

"Unfettered access (is) essential", the statement said.

One of the three sites hit was the Barzeh complex, which the U.S. says was a centre for development, production and testing of chemical and biological weapons, although Syria denies this.

The reason that the Assad regime uses chemical weapons is because it is engaged in a war against Syria's Sunni Muslim population, and is attempting to ethnically cleanse entire communities deemed a "threat" to the regime.

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The Syrian military, with help from its Russian and Iranian allies, this month retook control of eastern Ghouta, a suburban area that was the last major rebel-held enclave near Damascus.

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