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Russia’s defense minister slams reports on chemical weapons in Syria as 'unreliable'

The defense minister believes reports on chemical weapons in Syria are becoming an information weapon for political expediency

MOSCOW, May 24. /TASS/. The reports about the use of chemical weapons in Syria are becoming an information weapon for political expediency, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said at the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, on Wednesday.

"Based on the games in the media space involving chemical weapons… Some make mere claims that they are used by the Syrian authorities, others say this is not the authorities (that use them - TASS). We’ve already reached the point where we’re thoroughly convinced that the bulk of films and reports are staged, and previously they were also staged. Not only we, many have proved that they are becoming an instrument. You probably remember it started in Iraq when there were reports about various tubes and bottles, but it turned out there had been nothing, though the country had already been destroyed," the minister said.

According to Shoigu, Syria followed Iraq. Russia proposes to form a balanced multilateral commission focused on ascertaining the truth, he said. "When you don’t know the truth you don’t know what to fight with," he added.

De-escalation zones in Syria

Russia’s military expects to discuss regulations on forces that will work in de-escalation zones in Syria at a meeting in Kazakhstan’s Astana in June, he went on. 

"We hope that in early June another meeting in Astana will be held where we will be able to reaffirm all regulations on those forces that will be stationed (in de-escalation zones)," Shoigu said.

The participants plan to endorse maps and the creation of checkpoints and safe corridors, which should be located at a 1 km distance between the sides, according to Russia’s proposals, he said.

At the meeting, Moscow also expects to discuss further steps on fight against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (terrorist groups, outlawed in Russia).

On May 4, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to set up four de-escalation zones in Syria. Under a memorandum signed at the talks in Astana, these four zones include the Idlib Province and some areas in the neighboring provinces (of Aleppo, Latakia and Hama), an area north of Homs, the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, and a couple of provinces in southern Syria - Daraa and Al-Quneitra.

In line with the memorandum, a joint working group was due to be set up within 10 days for defining the exact borders of de-escalation zones and working out details of carrying out monitoring of the ceasefire. The maps of the designated areas should be drafted by May 27.