British chemical weapons inspector: Russian Federation blocking access to Douma


A British representative to the OPCW noted that it is essential that the team be granted "unfettered access".

Moscow denied the charge and blamed delays on retaliatory US-led missile strikes on Syria at the weekend.

"Russia confirms its commitment to ensure safe and security of the mission and will not interfere in its work", the Russian embassy in The Hague said in a tweet.

"We have not just a 'high level of confidence, ' as our Western partners uniformly put it; we have irrefutable proof that there was no chemical attack in Douma on April 7, " Russia's Ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons Aleksandr Shulgin said at a special meeting of the United Nations chemical watchdog's executive council.

In the fraught aftermath of the suspected attack in Douma and the West´s response, Washington also prepared to increase pressure on Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad´s main ally, with new economic sanctions.

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Syrian state TV carried live images of hourslong street celebrations with people dancing and chanting in support of their government's "steadfastness" following unprecedented joint airstrikes by the United States, France and Britain on Syria.

Its team on the ground also faced the risk of arriving too late to a site where much of the evidence may have always been removed or tampered with.

The targeted sites were largely empty but US President Donald Trump hailed a "perfectly executed" operation.

The US envoy to the OPCW has expressed concern that Russian Federation had visited the site and "may have tampered with it" to impede the investigation - an allegation Russian Federation has rejected. Western states have used those videos as proof of Damascus' involvement in the alleged chemical attack in order to launch strikes against Syria.

The government, however, said evacuations were continuing and no Syrian government forces had entered the town.

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A fact-finding mission by the UN's chemical weapons watchdog has arrived in Damascus.

For over a week now, Syrian government flags have flown over Douma, the biggest town in the agricultural Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus, since rebels there surrendered after five years of siege.

The United States and its allies have said the aim of the strikes was to prevent the further use of chemical weapons, not to turn the tide of the war in Syria or topple Assad. "They were given routine treatment", he told AFP.

Lavrov also repeated Russia's claim that there was no chemical attack in Douma, asserting that "what did take place was.staged".

Local medics said more than 40 people died as a result of the alleged chemical weapons attack, which most experts so far have speculated involved chlorine and another agent such as sarin.

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Russian ambassador Shulgin repeated the accusations telling reporters in The Hague that Douma residents had not been able to produce "a single body".