MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russia stands by its assertion that the Syrian forces struck a militant chemical weapons production facility on April 4, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday.
"According to our absolutely reliable information, the point at issue are Syrian Arab Republic air force's Su-22 airstrikes on a site controlled by terrorists where chemicals were produced," Ryabkov told reporters.
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.
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.
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.
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.