Russia says evidence growing Syria chemical attack was staged

By Stepan Kravchenko, Ilya Arkhipov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo / AP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo / AP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a chemical-weapons attack in Syria that provoked U.S. missile strikes on the Middle Eastern country may have been orchestrated.

"There's growing evidence that this was staged," Lavrov said at a Moscow news conference with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts on Friday.

Publications including in the U.S. and the U.K. have highlighted "many inconsistencies" in the version of events in Syria's Idlib province that was used to justify the American airstrikes, he said.

Russia, Iran and Syria want an independent investigation and those opposed to the call "don't have a clear conscience," Lavrov said.

Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Wednesday that demanded the Syrian government cooperate with an inquiry into the suspected sarin-gas attack that killed dozens of people, reports the Washington Post.

President Donald Trump ordered cruise-missile strikes on an airbase in Syria last week after his administration accused Russia of trying to cover up Syrian leader Bashar Assad's role in the chemical-weapons attack.

Russia contends the chemicals belonged to terrorists. Lavrov called on the U.S. not to repeat the airstrikes, which he said were part of efforts to oust Assad that won't succeed.

The crisis dominated Moscow talks between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday as the Kremlin rebuffed demands to abandon its ally Assad.

Putin's military backing of Assad has been crucial in keeping the regime in power after six years of civil war.

The U.S. hasn't shown evidence that Assad was responsible for the April 4 attack in Idlib, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where Putin was attending a collective-defense meeting of former Soviet republics.

The U.S. "is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people," according to a four-page document published by officials in Washington on Tuesday that contained evidence including satellite images, reports from the scene and details of exposure gathered from victims.

Russia says Syrian forces struck a building where terrorists kept the internationally banned chemical.

The U.S. says it has images proving the bomb left a crater in a road rather than hitting a building.

- Washington Post

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