Moscow slams western media ‘disinformation campaign’ about OPCW experts being denied entry to Douma
Western media are waging an “unscrupulous disinformation campaign” by claiming Moscow and Damascus are “blocking” OPCW inspectors from accessing the site of an alleged chemical attack in Douma, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
“It was Russia that supported the request of the Syrian government to the Director General of the Technical Secretariat of the [Organization for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons] to send … experts to Douma,” the ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova said, dismissing the media allegations.
“We will not indulge the authors of these fake reports,” Zakharova added, explaining that the Russian side “does its part of the work in a very responsible, professional and reliable manner.” She stressed that it is Russia and Syria that bear the responsibility for the security of the OPCW experts.
Those who still want to accuse the Syrian and Russian authorities of neglecting their duties, by “blocking” the experts from accessing the site of the alleged chemical attack, apparently are willing to risk the OPCW investigators’ lives to promote their “dirty fake news,” Zakharova said.
It was after the strikes launched by the US, the UK and France against Syria, when the most radical militant groups renewed active hostilities against the Syrian Army in the Douma region.
The coalition attack also forced the Syrian authorities and the Russian military to change route plans and once again negotiate with some local groups in Douma to facilitate the safe access of the OPCW investigators to the site of the alleged chemical attack.
Earlier, Moscow said that the strikes were aimed at thwarting the UN chemical watchdog’s investigation. Washington and its allies launched a massive missile strike against Syria on the same day that the team of OPCW experts was expected to arrive in Syria.
On Monday, an array of western mainstream media came out with strikingly similar headlines as they all accused Moscow of “blocking” the OPCW experts from entering Douma. CNN, the Guardian and the New York Times all said that the OPCW experts were either “blocked” or “barred” from the alleged chemical attack site. CBS News came out with a headline reading: “Russia accused of blocking access to alleged chemical attack site” while the Sun wrote that “US accuses Russia of tampering with Syrian poison gas site and [of] blocking inspectors” altogether.
Worth noting here - the BBC (and others) are currently saying it will take “months” to remove all traces of the nerve agent from Salisbury. Yet we are also having it implied the Russians able to clean up all traces of alleged CW attack in Douma in a matter of days https://t.co/hB8Fba6DEp— OffGuardian (@OffGuardian0) April 17, 2018
It turned out that British officials were behind this new wave of hysteria. The inspectors “are currently being prevented from doing so by the regime and the Russians,” Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain said in Parliament, the media reported. The British prime minister also accused the Syrian government of “attempting to conceal the evidence” of the attack. She never provided any proof to substantiate her words, though.
The British mission to the OPCW also added fuel to the fire by tweeting that “Russia and Syria have not yet allowed access to Douma.”
#OPCW Director Gen briefs Exec Council on his Fact Finding Mission’s deployment to 🇸🇾 to investigate #Douma chem weapon attack. OPCW arrived in Damascus on Saturday. Russia & Syria have not yet allowed access to Douma. Unfettered access essential. Russia & Syria must cooperate.— UK Delegation OPCW (@UK_OPCW) April 16, 2018
In fact, Russia informed the OPCW that “there were still pending security issues to be worked out before any deployment could take place,” Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the OPCW technical secretariat, said in a statement on Monday.
The official Twitter account of the #OPCW makes no allegation that the FFM to #Douma was blocked by the Syrians and Russians on the ground. The allegations in this regard have come from the UK OPCW delegation and the US ambassador to the OPCW. Draw your own conclusions. #Syriahttps://t.co/yEHpgqcEeC— John Wight (@JohnWight1) April 17, 2018
The whole media campaign promoting the idea of the OPCW investigation being “blocked” might be aimed at actually discrediting the potential results of the probe, which could prove to be inconsistent with the narrative promoted by the US and its allies, security analyst and former UK Army officer Charles Shoebridge said, in a Twitter post.
Already preparing the ground perhaps for discrediting any unhelpful @OPCW findings, US UK media making much of inspectors not immediately deploying to #Douma. But note they only arrived in Syria on 13th, meaning any extra deployment delay is at most 3 dayshttps://t.co/KiLUk1ND8xpic.twitter.com/AwOyfYponO— Charles Shoebridge (@ShoebridgeC) April 17, 2018
Militant lab with chemical stockpiles found in Douma
In the meantime, the Russian military have found a laboratory operated by militants in central Douma, which the military says was used to produce chemical weapons. The facility was located in a basement of a residential building.
The lab had some sophisticated equipment, including an industrial chemical reactor, which was apparently used by the militants to create toxic agents. The footage, taken by Russian journalists inside the facility, also shows vast stockpiles of various chemicals, some of which were produced in Germany, as well as empty mortar shells that can be filled with poisonous substances.
“While searching the site, the Russian nuclear, chemical and biological-warfare units have found substances that fall under the Convention for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” Colonel Aleksandr Rodionov, an officer with the Russian nuclear, chemical and biological-warfare troops, told journalists. He added that chemicals stockpiled in the lab could be particularly used to produce sulfur mustard gas and nitrogen mustard gas.
The Russian military also found a cylinder filled with chlorine, which looks similar to the one that was shown in one of the videos of the alleged chemical attack in Douma and presented as a “chemical bomb dropped from a helicopter.”
The militants were apparently well aware of how to produce chemical agents, as block notes containing formulas and detailed instructions on how to mix the chemicals were also found in the lab. A banner with the logo of the White Helmets was also reportedly found near the entrance to the chemical laboratory.
The locals, including the people who had lived in the house, were sent away by the militants, who cordoned off the building and sometimes even blocked the street where it’s located. The militants also kept their activities secret so that the civilians knew nothing of their work there.
The purported chemical incident in Douma allegedly took place on April 7. A week later, Washington and its allies launched a massive missile strike against Syria, in retaliation to the alleged attack, without even waiting for the OPCW investigation of the incident to begin. Russia denounced the strikes by calling them “hooliganism” in international relations and “an aggression against a sovereign state.”
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