West using chemical weapons watchdog to justify its aggression against Syrian govt: Moscow

West using chemical weapons watchdog to justify its aggression against Syrian govt: Russia

An oxygen bottle and a mask are displayed at the OPCW (The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) headquarters in The Hague, The Netherlands, on 20 April, 2017. AFP File

New Delhi: Russia’s permanent representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has claimed that the latest report by the chemical watchdog accusing Syria of carrying out a chemical attack in Douma in 2018 seems to be a political hit piece meant to justify the West’s continued military aggression against the Syrian government.

Alexander Shulgin vehemently dismissed the report, which was released in late January by the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT).

Dismissing the IIT as “completely illegitimate”, Shulgin while speaking to Russia Today claimed the group’s creation was pushed through by the US and its allies in order to undermine the core principles of the OPCW and international law, replacing them with their own “made-up rules.”

The IIT’s report, according to Shulgin, is riddled with inconsistencies and factual gaps, and barely holds together.

Furthermore, none of Russia’s or any other country’s “uncomfortable” questions regarding the details of the IIT’s findings were even remotely addressed during an OPCW briefing on the report, the ambassador told Russia Today.

Noting that the report highlighted the double standards currently present within the OPCW, he said that when Russia presented evidence of a chemical attack in Aleppo back in 2016, every minute detail of Moscow’s findings was heavily scrutinised by the organisation.

However, when it comes to the attack in Douma, OPCW officials seem to turn a blind eye to basic questions such as how and when the evidence was gathered and presented during the investigation, he added.

“For instance, they referred to the fact that some new sample has appeared, provided by a third party. What is this third party? Nothing is said about it. They just say ‘trust us’,” Shulgin was quoted as saying by Russia Today, noting that the sample in question had never been reported on in previous investigations.

“So before, there was no sample, but now, suddenly, it has somehow appeared. Without any explanations,” the ambassador added, suggesting its sudden appearance can only be explained by the need for the US, France, and UK to escape international accountability for their aggression against Syria.

What’s in the report?

The OPCW report finds “reasonable grounds” exist to believe the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack that killed 43 civilians in the suburban town of Douma in 2018, the organisation’s senior official told the Security Council on Tuesday.

According to the report, Fernando Arias, Director-General of the UN-backed OPCW, said there is evidence that, on 7 April 2018, at least one Syrian air force helicopter – operating under the control of the Government’s “Tiger Forces” – departed Dumayr airbase and dropped two yellow chlorine cylinders, hitting two residential buildings.

‘Lethal’ incident in Douma

According to the report, three NATO states launched a series of airstrikes against civilian and military targets in Syria in April 2018 after the so-called ‘White Helmets’ – an NGO operating in rebel-controlled areas of Syria – published a series of videos supposedly showing the aftermath of a chlorine attack on the residents of Douma.

Syria has vehemently denied any responsibility for the incident, and both Damascus and Moscow have repeatedly pointed to evidence, including testimonies from alleged victims, that suggests the incident was staged in order to justify a Western attack.

With inputs from agencies

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