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    A picture taken on April 4, 2017 shows destruction at a hospital in Khan Shaykhun in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, following a suspected toxic gas attack.

    Putin Says Russia Defends Syrian Statehood, Not Assad

    © AFP 2017/ Omar haj kadour
    Middle East
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    St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017 (183)
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    Russia is not so much defending Syrian President Bashar Assad through its actions in Syria, but rather the Syrian statehood, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Putin said commenting on allegations of Syrian President Bashar Assad's army using chemical weapons in the Idlib province that "there is no proof at all."

    When asked about the footages of the Khan Sheikhun alleged chemical weapons attack, Putin said that Assad did not use chemical weapons and the "provocation" was done to accuse him.

    He added that Russian special services obtained information that other chemical attacks had been planned in Syria, including on Damascus' outskirts, however, apparently terrorists didn't do it because Moscow made the data public.

    "What has been President Assad accused of lately? We know about accusation of the use of chemical weapons. There is no proof whatsoever. Haven't we proposed, right after it [the incident with alleged use of chemical weapons in Idlib] happened, to carry out inspection right at the airfield from which the planes with chemical weapons allegedly were taking off? And… if such use took place, it means they were loading the ammunition with chemical weapons, and modern analyzers, control devices would have definitely found traces of chemical weapons on that plane and at that airfield," Putin said, adding that the Western countries rejected Russia’s proposal.

    The proposal to inspect the site of the strike was also declined upon claims that it is too dangerous, Putin reminded.

    He added that it is confirmed that Damascus has destroyed chemical weapons it had possessed. He said that it is well known that terrorists in Syria possess chemical weapons.

    "Yes, Assad made some mistakes, but those who accuse him, are they angels?" Putin said. He added that the situation in Syria would have been different without foreign interference.

    "We are not so much defending president Assad as we are the Syrian statehood … Yes, everyone is probably at fault there, but let us not forget that there would not be such situation, such civil war which we are witnessing now if it were not for the active interference from the outside," Putin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

    The situation similar to what happened in Libya, Somalia or Afghanistan should not repeat in Syria, Putin said.

    "We do not want for a situation, comparable to [the one in] Libya or Somalia, to occur on the territory of Syria. Or the one similar to Afghanistan, where NATO has been present for many years, but the situation has not changed."

    On April 4, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces claimed that 80 people were killed and 200 injured in a suspected chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, blaming the Syrian government. Damascus vehemently rejected the accusations and said militants and their allies were responsible.

     

    Early April 7, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian military airfield in Ash Sha’irat, located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the city of Homs. US President Donald Trump said the attack was a response to the alleged chemical weapon use in Syria's Idlib, which Washington blames on the Syrian government. Russia described the attack as an aggression against a sovereign state.

    Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry reminded the Trump administration that all chemical weapons had been taken out of Syria in mid-2014 with the help of the previous administration of ex-president Barack Obama.

    Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Sputnik that Western states are blocking attempts to investigate the Idlib chemical incident because in the event of a probe it will be established that the "attack" was a false flag and lie.

    SPIEF, a major global platform for communication between business representatives and discussion of crucial economic issues, kicked off in Russia’s St. Petersburg on Thursday and will continue through Saturday. Sputnik News Agency is the official media partner of the forum.

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