Moscow is closely monitoring the situation in Idlib, Aleppo, Lattakia and Hama after receiving information that terrorists from the so-called 'Hayat Tahrir al-Sham' (aka Nusra Front, aka al-Qaeda* in Syria) are planning to stage chemical attacks in the provinces, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said.
"We are closely monitoring the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone," Zakharova said, speaking to reporters on Friday. "The terrorists operating there from the Nusra alliance are not stopping their provocative false flag attacks against government forces. Since the beginning of the year, over 460 such incidents have been recorded. Over 30 people have been killed, and 100 injured," she added.
According to Zakharova, Moscow is "seriously concerned" by fresh reports that "militants from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, with the assistance of the notorious White Helmets, are making preparations for another staged attack involving the use of toxic substances, with the subsequent imposition of blame for the use of chemical weapons on government forces. "Terrorists are dispersing the corresponding warheads and caches in the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, Lattakia, and Hama," the spokeswoman stressed.
Earlier on Friday, the Russian military recorded 18 violations of the ceasefire in Syria over the past 24 hours, with Turkish observers reporting 27 violations. These included cases of small arms fire in Idlib, as well as Aleppo, Lattakia, and Hama provinces.
The US and its European allies have repeatedly accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against armed rebels. Syrian authorities have forcefully rejected the claims, and accused terrorists of staging false flag attacks to try to provoke a Western-led military intervention against the country. The US and its British and French allies carried out missile strikes against Syrian government targets in April 2018, justifying the aggression with claims that Damascus had used chemical weapons against the Syrian people.
On Thursday, the State Department announced that it would be providing some $5 million in additional aid to the White Helmets "for the continuation of the vital, life-saving operations" being carried out by the group in Syria. Damascus and Moscow have repeatedly decried the group over its reported ties to terrorists, with Syrian authorities nicknaming the group the 'al-Qaeda civil defence force'.
*A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.