Russia and Syrian regime blocking access of Chemical weapons inspectors to Douma site

A Syrian father is shown carrying his  child that was killed by the chemical attack  in Douma  April 8, 2018
A Syrian father is shown carrying his child that was killed by the chemical attack in Douma April 8, 2018

Russia and the Syrian regime have been accused by western diplomats of denying chemical weapons inspectors access to sites in the town of Douma, where an attack killed dozens and prompted US-led missile strikes over the weekend.

Russia and Syria had cited “pending security issues” before inspectors could deploy to the town outside Damascus, Ahmet Üzümcü, the director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told a meeting of the OPCW’s executive council.

Syrian authorities were offering 22 people to interview as witnesses instead, he said, adding that he hoped “all necessary arrangements will be made … to allow the team to deploy to Douma as soon as possible”.

Speaking in parliament on Monday, Theresa May said Syria was being supported by Russia in attempts to conceal the facts of a chemical attack in Douma. The UK’s OPCW delegation tweeted: “Russia & Syria have not yet allowed access to Douma. Unfettered access essential. Russia & Syria must cooperate.”

Russia denied that it was to blame for a lack of access. The Russian deputy envoy at the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said the obstacles were caused by the western bombing. “If you go to a site which was just bombed I imagine you might have certain logistic problems,” he said.

Earlier, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the inspectors could not access the site because they did not have the appropriate UN permission. In response the United Nations said it had provided the “necessary clearances” for a fact-finding mission.

Russian military officials were at the site of the Douma attack days before the OPCW reached Damascus, leading to fears that the site might have been tampered with.

Kenneth Ward, the US ambassador to the OPCW, also raised these fears on Monday, drawing a denial from the Russian foreign minster, Sergei Lavrov, who told the BBC: “I can guarantee that Russia has not tampered with the site.” Lavrov also reiterated the Russian line that any attack on Douma was “staged”.

The US launched military strikes, alongside UK and French forces, in the early hours of Saturday morning local time aimed at reducing the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons facilities.

Over the weekend the OPCW sent inspectors on a fact-finding visit to Douma to search for evidence and interview witnesses. Their arrival coincided with a Syrian military announcement that it had “purified” the region of eastern Ghouta, of which Douma is a part, after a two-month campaign that has killed nearly 2,000 civilians, following years of siege.

Western countries are making a push both at the OPCW in The Hague and the UN in the New York to secure wider diplomatic support for a clampdown on the use of chemical weapons in the Syria. The suspicion is that the Syrian government previously misled inspectors when it declared its entire chemical weapons stockpile had been disclosed and destroyed.

The UN security council’s 15 members will meet on Monday to discuss a call for a wider push to eliminate the covert Syrian government stockpiles.

The British envoy to the OPCW, Peter Wilson, put the Douma attack in a wider context of chemical weapons use in Syria during the war. The OPCW had recorded 390 allegations of the use of banned chemicals in Syria since 2014 he said, and a failure by the OPCW to act risked allowing “further barbaric use of chemical weapons”.

Syria joined the OPCW, the organisation tasked with monitoring adherence to a 1997 convention on chemical weapons, in 2013 after a sarin gas attack that killed hundreds of people in Ghouta. The move was part of a joint Russian-US deal that averted military action threatened by the then US president, Barack Obama.

The OPCW needs a two-thirds majority to take decisions, and faces the threat of being fatally weakened as Russia and the west fight over the OPCW’s mandate to ascribe responsibility for attacks.

A Russian veto at the UN last November means the OPCW is empowered only to state if chemical weapons have been used, and not to attribute responsibility.

Russia is also challenging an OPCW finding that a nerve agent was found in an attack in Salisbury on the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.

A joint United Nations-OPCW mission concluded the Syrian airforce was responsible for a sarin attack that killed nearly 100 people a year ago in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. The finding led Russia to object to the way in which the joint mission reached its conclusions, and to demand future changes in its methodology before its mandate could be renewed.

Wilson told the OPCW executive meeting: “The time has come for all members of this executive council to take a stand. Too many duck the responsibility that comes with being a member of this council. Failure to act to hold perpetrators to account will only risk further barbaric use of chemical weapons, in Syria and beyond.”


  • Danny Farah

    Ask Omega he always have an answer. First he was surprised why the US and it’s allies bombed Syria before the inspectors arrived to Syria. Now we find out that really the Russian and SYrians are blocking. so what answers do you have Mr. Omega?

    • Omega

      The answer is that neither Russia nor Syria blocked access to the site. It’s another lie.

      Furthermore, Western media channels (albeit not mainstream) are reporting that no chemical attack took place in Douma.

      • Hind Abyad

        The boy in “Douma chemical Syria atrocity” video.

        • Omega

          I read. Apparently, he is alive and well. Paid with food to act sick.

          • Hind Abyad

            Yalib article a shameful lie. Inspectors were in Lebanon waiting to cross to Syria, US France UK Israel started the strikes.
            Pas mal croche cette histoire.
            As for the boy not only that he’s well.
            Video and witnesses prove it was staged.

    • Hind Abyad

      IT’s fake. YaLibnan was bought by Zionists SMS.

      ‘Question: What can you say about some Western media outlets’ claims that Russia is blocking the OPCW Fact Finding Mission experts’ access to the town of Douma?

      Maria Zakharova: First, I would like to note that we support Director General of the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW Ahild Uzumlu’s decision to send the FFM inspectors to Douma to study the situation on site, namely, to collect evidence, such as soil samples, to run some tests on the people possibly affected by the attack, and so on. Under the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, all of that should be done only by authorised OPCW inspectors. Then, the evidence is sealed and delivered to certified OPCW laboratories (certified means that their findings are trusted by the OPCW and the entire international community).’

      Against this background, the disinformation campaign launched in the Western media claiming that Russia and Syria allegedly hamper the international inspectors’ access to Douma looks at least unseemly.

      Notably, Russia cannot block the FFM work by definition.

      After all, it was Russia that supported the Syrian government’s request to the Director General of the OPCW Technical Secretariat to send the OPCW experts to Douma. It is the Syrians and us who are accountable to the entire international community, the Director General of the OPCW, and finally the families, relatives and friends of the courageous FFM inspectors who, despite the difficulties involved, are determined to fulfill their duty.’

  • Niemals

    A Swedish correspondent from TV4 gained access to the alleged attack site in Douma on Monday.
    The swedish journalist spoke to residents of a building where at least 30 bodies are reported to have been found.
    “All of a sudden some gas spread around us,” Nasser Amer Hanen said. “We couldn’t breathe, it smelled like chlorine.”

    Another resident, who said many members of his family were among those killed, showed the TV4 crew a yellow compressed gas canister that appeared to have punched a hole in the roof of the building.
    This canister looked similar to the others photographed in the wake of other alleged chlorine attacks.
    The Swedish journalist who visited the building in Douma said he felt a discomfort in his throat and smelled a strong odor as he entered its basement.

    International press visited the scene of the alleged chemical attack, and made interviews with the survivors of the chemical attack.

    That happened at the same day that the investigators were prevented to visit the scene of the alleged chemical attack by Syrian and Russian authorities because of security reasons….

    OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said Syrian and Russian officials cited “pending security issues” in keeping its inspectors from reaching Douma.

  • Niemals

    I doubt that the chemical weapons experts of the OPCW in the Syrian city of Duma still find evidence for the alleged use of poison gas.
    France is skeptical.
    Russia is optimistic – because they know that the chances of finding traces of chemical weapons in Duma are decreasing every day.
    Then it becomes easy for Russian to claim that there was no chemical weapon attack. Appropriate under the circumstances….

  • Niemals

    Judging by Al-Manar (Sputnik) article about Russian military (NOT syrian) that found chemical weapons Warehouse in Douma, one get the impression that Assads army is under the command of the Russians.

    “The discovered substances, such as thiodiglycol and diethanolamine, are necessary for the production of sulfur and nitrogen mustard gas. In addition, a cylinder with chlorine, similar to that used by militants for setting up the wide-spread fake story, was found in the warehouse. It can be concluded that this laboratory was used by illegal armed groups for the production of poisonous substances,” Rodionov said, as quoted by the Zvezda TV channel. (Owner of Zvezda TV; Russian Ministry of Defence…..).???? The logo of Zvezda TV channel, owned by mass media holding company of the Ministry of Defence. ????

  • Niemals

    Russia has rejected France’s proposal at a United Nations Security Council meeting that called for the launch an independent investigation over an alleged chemical attack that struck the former rebel-held town of Douma in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta.
    The rejection on Tuesday came during the sixth UNSC emergency meeting on Syria since the suspected chemical attack claimed the lives of at least 85 people on April 7, according to medical personnel.