MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Moscow rejects any accusations that Russia is trying to hide the alleged involvement of Damascus in the recent chemical incident in Syria's Idlib, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.
"In any case, we reject any accusations in this regard," Peskov said.
The spokesman called reports of Russia's attempts to hide the Syrian government's alleged involvement "information mess," adding that it "doesn't make information streams any more convincing or believable."
Raising the issue of the necessity for Russia to distance itself from Syrian President Bashar Assad while not solving problems of the fight against the Daesh terrorist group (IS, outlawed in Russia) is shortsighted, Peskov said.
Asked whether there are any circumstances under which Moscow could distance itself from Assad, Peskov said there are two main goals: to fight Dash and to seek the resolution of the current situation not by military but by political and diplomatic means.
"We consider raising the issue of the need to distance ourselves from Assad without mentioning the two main goals to be shortsighted," the presidential spokesman said.
Peskov added that calls to give up support of Assad are tantamount to calls to allow terrorists to continue to attack Syria's legitimate authorities.
"Russia is supporting this anti-terrorist struggle, so it is rather absurd to raise the question of Russia ceasing to support Assad, and consequently cease supporting his efforts to fight Daesh," the spokesman noted.
On Tuesday, prior to his visit to Russia, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the United States hoped Russia understands it "aligned… with an unreliable partner," referring to the Syrian president.
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.