1. ITV Report

UK will not attend Russia and Syria's 'stunt' briefing to prove chemical attack in Douma was 'fake'

  • Video report ITV News correspondent Rupert Evelyn

The UK will not attend Russia and Syria's "stunt" briefing at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in which the two countries plan to prove that the chemical attack in Douma was “staged” and “fake”.

Russia is holding a briefing inside the OPCW with Syrians from Douma, who, they say, will tell member states that they were not victims of a chemical attack.

Rather, the two countries argue that “the staged incident" included the "participation of unwitting comedians and other witnesses from the famous 'White Helmets' footage brought to The Hague straight from the site of the event".

Syrians from Douma arrive on a bus to give evidence in The Hague. Credit: ITV News

More than 40 people were killed in the suspected chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town, which prompted a military response from the US, UK and France.

During the briefing in The Hague, it is expected that seven of the Syrians from Douma will point at video footage taken shortly after the attack, in which it looks as though they were seriously injured, and tell the world that whatever it was, it was not a chemical weapons attack.

They will then appear before media to answer questions.

The Director General of the OPCW has opposed the briefing and called on Russia and Syria to work with the body's Fact Finding Mission and to wait for its report. In going ahead with the briefing, the two countries have ignored the request.

Russia gets the briefing underway. Credit: ITV News

Peter Wilson, the UK's Permanent Representative to the OPCW described the briefing as "a propaganda campaign of misinformation", adding that the UK "will not compromise with states that seek to degrade the structures and treaties that keep us safe."

He continued that "describing chemical weapons victims as 'comedians' is despicable.

"It shows the utter disregard Russia and Syria have for the suffering of the Syrian people, and indeed the global norm against chemical weapons use.

"Widespread reports of intimidation of witnesses to the Douma attack is a cause for real concern...

"Any witnesses with information related to chemical weapons attacks in Syria should be heard by the impartial OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM).

"We support the FFM and urge others to cease attempts to undermine its vital work.”

On Thursday, the global chemical weapons watchdog's inspectors paid a second visit to the scene of the April 7 alleged attack, following their first on Wednesday.

The team took samples during the visit to Douma which had been delayed by security fears.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement that samples taken by the team in the town, just east of Damascus, will be sent to OPCW-designated laboratories for analysis.

The OPCW team is mandated to establish whether chemical weapons were used, but not to apportion blame.