Russian officials today reacted with extreme scepticism to the US claims that President Bashar al Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons.
Yuri Ushakov, a top foreign policy aide to President Vladimir Putin, said that Russian officials had been briefed by their US counterparts on the evidence. “But I will say frankly that what was presented to us by the Americans does not look convincing,” he said. "It would be hard even to call them facts.”
Russia and the US agreed during a visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry last month that they would convene an international conference to bring together all sides of the Syrian conflict and try to find a solution.
However, plans and preparations for the conference are being hampered by mutual distrust and a sense that both sides are arming their preferred side in Syria, with the West worried about a possible transfer of S300 missiles and other hardware from Moscow to Mr Assad’s regime, while Russia is deeply worried by the EU and US decisions to end bans on arming the rebels. "If the Americans ... carry out more wide-scale aid to the rebels and opposition, it will not make organising the international conference easier," said Mr Ushakov.
Earlier the head of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Alexei Pushkov, questioned the US evidence in even stronger terms. “The data about Assad’s use of chemical weapons is fabricated by the same facility that made up the lies about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction,” wrote Mr Pushkov on his Twitter feed. “Obama is walking George W. Bush’s path.”