London (April 17, 2018): Chemical arms inspectors were blocked on Monday from the site of what is suspected of having been a poison attack by Syria’s military near Damascus, raising Western suspicions that Syria and its Russian ally were scrubbing the stricken area of evidence.
UK officials said that the experts waited two days to enter the site of the latest suspected chemical attack, where dozens of Syrian civilians were killed. But despite having UN clearance, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons still can’t enter the city of Douma, UK officials added.The United Kingdom said Syria and Russia have blocked OPCW investigators from entering Douma, and the United States said Russia may have tampered with evidence at the site.
A representative of Russia’s military said late Monday that OPCW inspectors would be permitted to travel to Douma on Wednesday.
“Wednesday is when we expect the arrival of the OPCW experts and Russia is not preventing this in any way,” Igor Kirillov told journalists at The Hague.
Russia said its security forces would assist the OPCW inspectors. Also Monday, Russia’s envoy to the OPCW, Alexander Shulgin, released a statement accusing the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets of using US funds to fake the suspected chemical attack.The OPCW team is tasked with determining whether banned substances were used in the attack, a claim that both Syria and its most powerful ally, Russia, have vehemently denied.
The team has been in Syria since Saturday, the same day the United States, United Kingdom and France carried out airstrikes against Syrian government targets in response to the April 7 attack in Douma.
Western leaders have blamed the Syrian government for the Douma attack, which killed about 75 people, including children, UK officials said.