By Scott Lucas – April 27, 2018 – eaworldview – In the highest-profile display in its campaign to sweep away the April 7 chemical attacks on Douma, near Syria’s capital Damascus, Russia has brought more than a dozen residents to the headquarters of the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Netherlands.
Russia has already blocked the OPCW from attributing responsibility for the two assaults, confirmed by local doctors, first responders, residents, and citizen journalists to have been carried out by helicopters of the Assad regime. Russian personnel reportedly moved into the sites soon afterwards to remove or disturb evidence. And, while OPCW inspectors were delayed from reaching Douma until this week, Russia, the Assad regime, and supporters pursued a loud campaign to proclaim — at different times — that there was no chemical attack at all, that rebels carried out a “false flag” attack, that White Helmets rescuers staged the incidents, and that British agents were responsible.
The OPCW had criticized Russia for not allowing inspectors to speak with the Syrians before they were displayed on Russia State TV in prime-time broadcasts. However, with OPCW inspectors now trying to assess the cause, using what evidence may remain in Douma and biological samples from survivors and the deceased, Russia defied the organization with the presentation to try and pre-empt any findings from the investigation.The Syrians included several medical personnel, who all put out the storyline that the rumors of a chemical attack — which never occurred — were fed by White Helmets rescuers who shouted “Chemicals!” — as victims of a non-chemical incident were brought into Douma’s main hospital. The personnel claimed that the victims were suffering from dust inhalation from shelling, as pro-Assad forces tried to take over the last town in East Ghouta, held by the opposition since 2012.
“Unknown people started creating chaos, and pouring water on people. We were specialists and we could see there were no symptoms of the use of chemical weapons,” said a physician named as Khalil, who said he was on duty in the emergency care unit.He said all patients were sent home that night, in contrast to footage confirming scores of deaths and witness reports — including from doctors at the time of the attacks — of about 85 fatalities and hundreds of injured.
Thursday’s Russian-organized accounts were offered against the backdrop of Russian military personnel taking doctors and medical staff to Damascus for questioning. The medics were warned of arrest and/or effect on their families if they did not deny the chemical attacks, according to multiple local sources.Russia also presented 11-year-old Hassan Diab, who was seen in a video on the night of the attacks, crying in the hospital as he was treated. Diab and his father were subsequently taken by the Russians to the Syrian Arab Army Officers’ Club in Damascus, where they gave the preferred story of a non-existent attack and blame on the White Helmets for inciting hysteria.
On Thursday, the Syrians gave brief statements. Their answers to questions were limited, as Russia’s envoy to the OPCW, Alexander Shulgin, did almost all of the speaking. “After this briefing, no one would have a shadow of a doubt who distributes fake news and who is waging an information war,” Shulgin said.
Reporters noted that none of the Syrians gave any account of events beyond the hospital, including at one of the site, a residential building where at least 35 people were killed.
Sonia Gallegos of Al Jazeera English summarized: We have absolutely no concrete evidence that these indeed are the people that were at the site and that there is truth to this.The witnesses had very similar statements in how they described things, but no documentation was provided with reference to their identification at all.It’s quite difficult to see how this would have been intended to make anything clear because we’re really left with more questions than answers to this whole situation and that’s only something the OPCW can resolve with evidence from the ground.The US, Britain, France and other countries boycotted the conference, calling it “nothing more than a crude propaganda exercise” and an “obscene masquerade”. www.mesop.de