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Lavrov: Idlib Chemical Incident 'Provocation Aimed at Undermining Ceasefire'

© Sputnik / Natalia Seliverstova / Go to the photo bankThe Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Smolenskaya-Sennaya Square in Moscow.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Smolenskaya-Sennaya Square in Moscow. - Sputnik International
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow considers the Idlib chemical incident a provocation.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Moscow considers the chemical weapons incident in the Syrian province of Idlib a provocation and an attempt to undermine the ceasefire in the country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday in phone talks with his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault.

"During the discussion of the situation in Syria S. Lavrov stressed again that the Russian side considers the April 4 incident with the use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun a deliberate provocation, aimed at undermining the ceasefire and political settlement in Syria," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Lavrov reiterated call for the "truly independent objective investigation" of the attack, the ministry added.

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On April 4, a chemical weapons incident in Syria's Idlib province claimed the lives of some 80 people and inflicted harm on an additional 200 civilians. The Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, as well as a number of Western states, accused the Syrian government troops of carrying out the attack, while Damascus refuted these allegations, with a Syrian army source telling Sputnik that the army did not possess chemical weapons.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 5 that the airstrike near Khan Shaykhun by the Syrian air force hit a terrorist warehouse that stored chemical weapons slated for delivery to Iraq, and called on the UN Security Council to launch a proper investigation into the incident.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said April 6 that groundless accusations in the chemical weapons incident in Syria's Idlib were unacceptable before the investigation into the matter had been carried out.

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However, the incident was used as pretext for a US missile strike against the Ash Sha'irat airbase carried out late on April 6. US President Donald Trump characterized the strike as a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government troops while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was a violation of the international law. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the US missile strike against the Syrian airfield as a strategic mistake.

In an exclusive interview with Fox Business on April 12, US President Donald Trump blamed the current situation in Syria on Moscow's support for country's Assad, calling the Syrian leader "an animal."

Earlier this year, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the country’s government had never used weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, against the Syrian people. Besides, under a Russian-US deal after the east Ghouta sarin gas incident in 2013, Damascus joined the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and agreed to destroy its stockpile under Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) oversight. In January 2016, the OPCW announced that all chemical weapons in Syria had been destroyed.

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