Russia’s news agency TASS reports (source):
Russia has studied the latest report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on the April 7 incident in Syria’s Douma and has a number of questions to ask to its authors, a Russian official said on Tuesday.
Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Georgy Kalamanov, the head of Russia’s delegation to the 88th session of the OPCW Executive Council, said OPCW investigations in Syria were conducted remotely and lacked transparency. Besides, rules on gathering and storing physical evidence have also been violated, he said.
“The fact-finding mission (FFM) to establish facts of chemical weapons use in Syria demonstratively refuses to observe the standards laid by the Chemical Weapons Convention,” he said.
“We have studied the preliminary report on investigation of the relatively high-profile incident, which took place in Syria’s Douma on April 7,” Kalamanov added. “And we have a number of questions to its authors.”
“In particular, the report mentions security problems, due to which the FFM was unable to visit Douma for a week,” he continued. “It mentions an incident, during which militants opened gunfire at a reconnaissance team. We remember that at that point in time, Western officials have been circulating assumptions about Russians, who try to slow down the mission’s work by not providing due level of security.”
The Russian chief delegate added that, for some reasons, the report fails to mention the April 14 missile strike, carried out by a group of Western nations, which could also disrupt the OPCW mission’s work.
“Their missiles were about to hit the OPCW mission,” Kalamanov said.
“The report also fails to mention the April 26 briefing at the OPCW headquarters, with the participation of people, who witnessed the making of the faked video by the notorious non-governmental organization, the White Helmets,” he went on.
“The Western group has issued a statement ahead of the briefing, claiming that Russia disrupted the work of the FFM by taking a group of important witnesses to The Hague. This is totally untrue. On the contrary, seven people from this group were already questioned by the FFM prior to the briefing, the rest were also ready to give their testimony. However, the report does not make a single mention of information, obtained from those witnesses,” the official added.
“We expect that FFM would eventually be able to draw relevant conclusions and bring the investigation into this case into correspondence with the Convention’s requirements,” Kalamanov said.
Strike on Syria
A number of NGOs, including the White Helmets, stated that chemical weapons were used in Eastern Ghouta on April 7. Representatives from the Russian Reconciliation Center for the Opposing Sides examined Douma on April 9 and found no trace of any use of chemical weapons there. The next day, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) decided to deploy its experts to Syria to check reports of the possible use of chemical weapons there.
The OPCW inspectors arrived in Damascus on April 14. Several hours before their arrival, the US, the UK and France had conducted a massive strike on Syria, having used reports of the incident as a pretext and without approval of the UN Security Council. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Syrian air defenses shot down 71 out of 103 missiles launched over Syrian facilities, and three civilians were injured.