The Russian Defense Ministry has presented what it says is proof that the reported chemical weapons attack in Syria was staged. It also accused the British government of pressuring the perpetrators to speed up the “provocation.”
During a briefing on Friday, the ministry showed interviews with two people, who, it said, are medical professionals working in the only hospital operating in Douma, a town near the Syrian capital, Damascus.
In the interviews released to the media, the two men reported how footage was shot of people dousing each other with water and treating children, which was claimed to show the aftermath of the April 7 chemical weapons attack. The patients shown in the video suffered from smoke poisoning and the water was poured on them by their relatives after a false claim that chemical weapons were used, the ministry said.
“Please, notice. These people do not hide their names. These are not some faceless claims on the social media by anonymous activists. They took part in taking that footage,” said ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov.
“The Russian Defense Ministry also has evidence that Britain had a direct involvement in arranging this provocation in Eastern Ghouta,” the general added, referring to the neighborhood of which Douma is part. “We know for certain that between April 3 and April 6 the so-called White Helmets were seriously pressured from London to speed up the provocation that they were preparing.”
According to Konashenkov, the group, which was a primary source of photos and footage of the purported chemical attack, was informed of a large-scale artillery attack on Damascus planned by the Islamist group Army of Islam, which controlled Douma at the time. The White Helmets were ordered to arrange the provocation after retaliatory strikes by the Syrian government forces, which the shelling was certain to lead to, he said.
Konashenkov said Russia hoped that international monitors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is due to investigate the circumstances of the incident, will help establish the truth. He added Eastern Ghouta is currently trying to return to peaceful life after being liberated from militant groups by Syrian government forces. He called on other nations and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid, which is badly needed in the area. Russia is already supplying food, medicine, building materials and other essential supplies to the neighborhood, he said.
The reported chemical weapons attack escalated tensions over Syria, just as Damascus was about to seize full control of Eastern Ghouta. The US and allies such as the UK and France threatened military action in response to what they claim is an atrocity committed by the Syrian government. Russia insists the incident was staged and said it reserves the right to counter any attack on Syria.
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