OPCW experts have left for Syrian Douma, Russia considers 11-day delay unacceptable

TASS– Experts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have left for Syria’s Douma early on April 21, Saturday, eleven days after Damascus’ request, Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement, adding that Moscow considers such a delay unacceptable.

“Early on April 21, a special OPCW mission for finding traces of chemical weapons left for the city of Douma (Eastern Ghouta) to the place of suspected use of toxic chemicals on April 7. We consider such delays in a notable case like that, for whatever reasons, to be unacceptable, since the security of the OPCW staff was ensured not only by the Syrian side, but also by the command of the Russian military forces in the Syrian Arab Republic,” the statement said.

According to Zakharova, Moscow expects OPCW experts to conduct an impartial investigation of the Douma incident and submit an unbiased report as soon as possible. “We appeal to western colleagues to refrain from actions obstructing efforts to establish the truth regarding the provocation in Eastern Ghouta on April 7,” she said.

The efforts of OPCW experts to limit the scope of locations related to the suspected chemical attack planned to be visited and the round of those examined in Douma raise concerns, the statement said.

Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the White Helmets, have claimed that chemical weapons were used in Douma, Eastern Ghouta, on April 7. According to the statement uploaded to the organization’s website on April 8, chlorine bombs were dropped on the city killing dozens and poisoning others, who had to be hospitalized.

The Russian foreign ministry dismissed that report as fake news. The Russian defense ministry stated that the White Helmets are an unreliable source, notorious for disseminating falsehoods. The Russian Center for the Reconciliation of Opposing Parties on April 9 examined Douma to find no traces of chemical weapons.

On April 14, the United States, the UK and France delivered missile strikes on Syria’s military and civilian infrastructure facilities. The Russian Defense Ministry reported that a total of 103 cruise and air-to-surface missiles had been fired, yet Syria’s air defense units managed to shoot down 71 of them. The United States, the UK and France said the strikes had been a response to the alleged chemical attack in Syria’s Douma.