Russia accuses UK of organizing alleged Syria gas attack | News | DW | 13.04.2018
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Russia accuses UK of organizing alleged Syria gas attack

Russia's military said it has "proof" that Britain directly participated in staging a fake chemical weapons attack in Syria's Douma. The UK fiercely denied the claim, calling it "fake news."

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Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Friday that the United Kingdom played a role in staging what Moscow claims was a fake poison gas attack on the Syrian city of Douma.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkow (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Zemlianichenko)

Konashenkow did not immediately release evidence of Russia's claim

Konashenkov told reporters that the Russian military has "proof that testifies to the direct participation of Britain in the organizing of this provocation in Eastern Ghouta." He did not elaborate or immediately present evidence.

Read moreWhat foreign powers want from the Syrian war

Russia claims images of the victims of the attack were staged by the "Syria Civil Defence," better known as the White Helmets, on orders from London. Volunteers with the organization act as first responders in opposition-held territories. They also document their work with cameras incorporated in their helmets.

Konashenkov said that "powerful pressure from London was exerted on representatives of the so-called White Helmets to quickly stage the premeditated provocation."

Britain's ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce, called the Russian accusation "bizarre" and "grotesque" and a "blatant lie."

"It's some of the worst piece of fake news we've yet seen from the Russia propaganda machine," she added.

US and allies considering military response

On April 7, the White Helmets claimed an alleged chemical attack on then-rebel-held Douma killed over 40 people.

The allegations and images of victims in hospitals sparked outrage and prompted the United States, France and the UK to consider a military response against the Syrian government.

Russia, who is allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, threatened to retaliate should there be any airstrikes.

Read moreThe German stance on Syria: Ready to help, but not militarily

Why is Russia blaming the UK?

Russia has repeatedly accused the White Helmets and opposition groups of staging or spreading false information about chemical attacks — but the claims of British involvement are new.

Read moreWho are the Syrian White Helmets?

The White Helmets are officially neutral in the Syrian conflict, but they receive funding from several western governments, including the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. The British government was initially the group's largest source of funding.

The group that processes donations for the organization is based in the UK, and is headed by Sawsan Asfari, the wife of British billionaire Ayman Asfari. The White Helmets were also founded by James Le Mesurier, a former British officer and ex-security consultant.

Russia and the Syrian government have frequently accused the group of impartiality in the Syrian conflict.

Russia and the UK are also currently entangled in a heated diplomatic spat over an attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English town of Salisbury.

London has accused Russia of carrying out the attack, which involved a nerve agent, while Moscow strongly denies any involvement.

rs/ng (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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