Less than a week after pro-Bashar al-Assad forces killed over 70 people in an alleged chemical weapons attack, President Donald Trump authorized a series of “precision” missile strikes against the country’s chemical weapons manufacturing facilities. Meanwhile, al-Assad’s Russian allies — who claim the gas attack is nothing more than a “fabrication” by foreign powers — have reportedly been tampering with the attack site in the Syrian city of Douma. At least that’s according to U.S. Ambassador Kenneth, who told members of a watchdog group that Russian officials were helping Syrian forces hide any evidence of the attack.
According to Reuters, which obtained records of Ward’s comments during a closed-door meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on April 7th, the U.S. ambassador condemned Syria and Russia equally:
“It is long overdue that this council condemns the Syrian government for its reign of chemical terror and demands international accountability for those responsible for these heinous acts… It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site. It is our concern that they may have tampered with it with the intent of thwarting the efforts of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission to conduct an effective investigation.”
Sure enough, BBC News is reporting that members of the OPCW team sent to Douma have not been allowed into the attack site. When asked about the matter during a television interview, however, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted “that Russia has not tampered with the site.” The OPCW previously said that “Syria and Russia were concerned that security on the ground could not be guaranteed” for its team, but Lavrov echoed the Kremlin’s prior “fabrication” claims outright. “All the evidence they quoted was based on media reports and social media,” he said. “What did take place was the staged thing.”