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OPCW Technical Secretariat to send experts to Syria this week — Russian envoy

On April 7, a number of NGOs, including the White Helmets, alleged that chemical weapons were used in Douma, Eastern Ghouta

MOSOW, April 11. /TASS/. The Technical Secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has stated its readiness to send experts to Syria at the end of the week, Russia’s OPCW Envoy Alexander Shulgin said in a live broadcast of Rossiya 1 TV Channel on Wednesday.

"Yesterday we turned together with our Syrian partners to the OPCW Technical Secretariat with a call to immediately send OPCW experts to Damascus without any delay to make it clear what happened there. The Syrians promised to create all the necessary conditions for the experts’ work while we promised to take care of the experts’ security. The Technical Secretariat stated its readiness to send experts at the end of this week," the envoy said.

Two groups of experts will be sent and their composition has already been determined, Shulgin said.

"The Organization is gathering information so far, drawing it from open sources while concurrently preparing for a trip to Syria. The composition of the group or, to be more exact, two groups, is already known but, respecting the confidentiality policy of the Organization’s leadership, I would not elaborate on this score," the high-placed diplomat said.

The Russian envoy said that the decision to send OPCW experts to Syria looked like a serious step towards legally resolving the situation with the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"Amid belligerent rhetoric, the arrival of OPCW specialists in Damascus for investigation looks like a very important step aimed at finding the keys to settling the situation in a legal field," he noted.

"Statements are made from Washington, in the first place, from other capitals about the need to deliver strikes against Syrian government facilities and military infrastructure. This is a sort of psychological pressure. Indeed, this will weigh on experts going to the scene to make all things clear. However, we will hope that the experts will have the courage to honestly and professionally perform their duty," Shulgin stressed.

On April 7, a number of NGOs, including the White Helmets, alleged that chemical weapons were used in Douma, Eastern Ghouta. According to the statement published on the organization’s website on April 8, chlorine bombs had been dropped on the city, killing dozens and poisoning many locals who had to be brought to the hospital. The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed that report as fake news. The Defense Ministry added that the White Helmets were notorious for spreading falsehoods.

Representatives of the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the Warring Sides held a probe in Douma on April 9 but found no traces of chemical weapons use. On April 10, Damascus sent an official invitation to the OPCW to visit Eastern Ghouta.