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Russian military brass reiterates terrorists in Syria use chemical weapons

Russian General Staff says the militants aim to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons and thus provoke new US strikes

MOSCOW, April 11. /TASS/. Terrorists in Syria are using chemical weapons, including improvised munitions, Head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Department Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi said on Tuesday.

"At the same time, instances were registered when militants used chemical weapons, including improvised munitions. The case files of investigations into some of such episodes have been transferred to representatives of the OPCW [the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]," the Russian general said.

The militants have been bringing poisonous substances to several areas in Syria to provoke new US attacks: 

"According to our information, militants have been bringing poisonous substances to the Khan Shaykhun area, the Jirah airport, Eastern Ghouta and the western outskirts of Aleppo," he elaborated. "They aim to create another pretext for accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons and provoke new US strikes on Syria," Rudskoi added.

"We would like to warn that such steps are unacceptable," the Russian general said. 

Shayrat airbase and new attacks on Palmyra 

Militants in Syria used the US missile strike against the Shayrat airbase to attack government forces near Palmyra, but all of their attacks have been beaten back, Rudskoi said. 

"Terrorists took advantage of the effects of the US cruise missile attack against the Shayrat airdrome, from where Syrian planes operated in the areas of Hama and Palmyra to launch attacks against government troops from the southwest. All of the militants’ attacks were rolled back. Two tanks, three armored personnel carriers and eight pickup trucks carrying heavy machineguns and also 150 terrorists were wiped out," the Russian general pointed out. 

The US attack and the alleged chemical weapons use 

"We demand thorough investigation of a so-called chemical attack by Syrian planes on Khan Shaykhun," Rudskoi has stressed adding that Syria’s authorities were ready to let experts examine the Shayrat airfield.

"We are ready to provide any opportunity, ensure security and let independent experts and representatives of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] examine the Shayrat airfield. Specialists know that it is impossible to hide traces of chemical weapons," Rudskoi said.

"Experts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have confirmed the elimination of ten out of 12 facilities used to manufacture and store chemical weapons. The Syrian authorities have no access to the remaining two as these are located on the territory controlled by the so-called opposition. That is why the OPCW cannot confirm the elimination of chemical weapons at these facilities," he said.

Rudskoi pointed out that in 2013-2016, the equipment used to produce chemical weapons was disabled while all means of delivery were destroyed under the OPCW’s control.

"Toxic chemicals were put aboard the US Cape Ray container ship and then eliminated at facilities located in the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland and Germany," the Russian general said.

At the same time, he noted that international inspectors had conducted additional checks of the Syrian facilities not involved in the production of chemical weapons. "They did not find any evidence to prove that poisonous substances were either produced or stored there," he added.

On April 7, US President Donald Trump ordered a strike on Syria’s Shayrat military air base located in the Homs Governorate. The attack, involving 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM), came as a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Idlib Governorate on April 4. The US authorities believe that the airstrike on Idlib was launched from the Shayrat air base.

The Syrian military denied its involvement in the attack. Russia’s Defense Ministry said that on April 4, the Syrian air force had delivered an airstrike on the eastern outskirts of the town of Khan Shaykhun to destroy militant facilities used to produce chemical bombs. These bombs were sent to Iraq and were previously used in Aleppo.

Russia strongly opposed the US missile strike. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow considered the attack to be an act of aggression against a sovereign state. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in turn, said that the aggression was carried out under a false pretext.