Russia has defended its ally Bashar Al-Asssad over the chemical attack on Idlib yesterday, which killed at least 70 people, saying a Syrian airstrike hit a “terrorist warehouse” containing “toxic substances”.
The claim by the Kremlin came as the international community continued to point its finger at the Syrian regime, for deliberately carrying out the bombing.
Washington said it believed the deaths were caused by sarin nerve gas dropped by a Syrian aircraft. But Moscow offered an alternative explanation: it said it believed poison gas had leaked from a opposition chemical weapons depot struck by Syrian bombs.
Russian claims were automatically dismissed by journalists as regime propaganda and an attempt to shift the blame.
Regime propagandists have started war crimes denial and trying to shift the blame onto rebels (who have never stockpiled nerve agents) pic.twitter.com/iXAMix4msi
— Oz Katerji (@OzKaterji) April 4, 2017
Opposition commanders on the ground also called the Russian statement a “lie”.
“Everyone saw the plane while it was bombing with gas,” Hasan Haj Ali, commander of the Free Idlib Army, told Reuters.
Likewise, all the civilians in the area know that there are no military positions there, or places for the manufacture [of weapons]. The various factions of the opposition are not capable of producing these substances.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, speaking at a long-planned conference in Brussels on aid to Syria, said:
All the evidence I have seen suggests this was the Assad regime who did it in the full knowledge that they were using illegal weapons in a barbaric attack on their own people.
This is also the first time Washington has accused Assad of using sarin since 2013. In a statement, President Donald Trump, who is mired in a scandal over his ties with Russia, condemned the attack by the Assad regime before blaming the attack on the previous administration of President Barack Obama saying: “These heinous actions by the Bashar Al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.”
The new incident means Trump is faced with the same dilemma that faced his predecessor. Trump’s statement, however, bares no indication as to what he will do. Prior to moving into the Oval Office he tweeted dozens of times asking Obama not to attack Syria.
His statement also prompted supporters of Obama to point out that Trump was more inclined to blame America for the chemical attack instead of blaming Russia, which has been propping up the Assad regime.