Russia slams ‘fake news’ on chemical attack in Douma

Moscow on Sunday rejected reports citing militants and NGOs that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons during weekend raids in the rebel-held Douma in Eastern Ghouta killing dozens.

Russia’s foreign ministry (building pictured) said such allegations are aimed at disrupting the evacuation of Jaish al-Islam militants from Douma on Sunday.

The lone militant group still holding Douma despite being surrounded by Syrian forces seems to be divided over their evacuation to Idlib. Many militants want to stay put. On Saturday, reports said they resumed fighting against the government forces.

The alleged chemical attack in Douma on Saturday is one of the fake news spread through the NGO White Helmets or Syria Civil Defence, and other ‘humanitarian organisations’ based in the UK and US, the ministry said.

Their aim is to set a narrative to justify possible military intervention in Syria from abroad. Such attacks are more likely to take place in areas where the Russian military contingent is deployed.

Such military interventions based on far-fetched assumptions in Syria, where Russian servicemen are deployed at the request of a legitimate government, are unacceptable and will lead to severe consequences, the ministry said.

Washington rushed to blame Moscow over chemical attacks based on the news fed by rebels trapped in Douma.

While condemning the alleged chemical attacks, US said Russia has to ultimately bear the responsibility for all chemical incidents in Syria, regardless of who carried them out.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said if the reports are true, the international community need to respond quickly.

Russia said that after militants leave Douma, it will send specialists in radiation, chemical and biological protection to collect data to show that all reports of chemical attacks were fake.

Syria, on its part, said it is foolish to think that their army needs chemical weapons to force out rebels from their last bastion.

Fresh strikes in Douma

Fresh strikes were reported in Douma on Sunday amid a ceasefire and the possibility of evacuation of Jaish al-Islam fighters despite failed talks on Friday over the issue.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said at least 80 civilians were killed during weekend air strikes by Syrian forces.

The Observatory also reported that dozens of people had suffered breathing problems following the attacks, but could not identify the cause.

The White Helmets alleged that regime’s forces had used “poisonous chlorine gas” in the attacks. To prove it, they posted footage of victims including children foaming at the mouth. The authenticity of the video could not be verified.

There were conflicting reports of the weekend death toll ranging from 40 to 80.

The Observatory said 11 of those who died at the weekend, including four children, had suffered breathing problems after the raids.