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The Latest: Russia says no trace of chemical attack in Syria

April 11, 2018
Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syria conflict (all times local):

6 p.m.

Russia is reiterating that its officers who inspected the town of Douma outside the Syrian capital have found no evidence to support claims that a chemical attack happened there.

Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir of the Russian military's General Staff says ground samples from Douma showed no trace of chemical agents. He says doctors at a local hospital told the Russians they haven't treated any victims of purported attacks.

He also noted that local residents told Russian officers they were unaware of any burials of victims of a purported chemical attack.

Poznikhir also repeated Moscow's earlier allegations that claims of the attack were "fake" and said the Russian military is ready to ensure security for experts from the international chemical weapons watchdog who are to visit Douma to investigate.

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5:35 p.m.

The Russian military says it will deploy troops to the Syrian town of Douma that was the site of a purported chemical weapons attack over the weekend.

Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces said on Wednesday that Russian military police will deploy to Douma on Thursday to ensure security of the town.

Poznikhir said that 41,213 people, including 3,354 rebels and 8,642 members of their families have left Douma with the Russian military's assistance.

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4:25 p.m.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is calling on the United States and Russia to work toward "healing wounds" in Syria, comparing their threats and exchanges of words to a street fight between "bullies."

Addressing an economic conference, Yildirim said Wednesday: "They are fighting like street bullies. ... The time is not one for competing. It is time to heal the wounds of the region."

Yildirim's comments came hours after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that the U.S. will be launching missiles at targets in Syria in response to the suspected chemical attack in a rebel-held area that killed at least 40 people.

Russia's Foreign Ministry responded by suggesting that the U.S. missiles would destroy evidence of a suspected chemical weapons attack.

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3:40 p.m.

The Syrian government says U.S. threats to attack it are "reckless" and endanger international peace and security.

The Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Washington is using an alleged chemical attack near the capital to target Syria, and that the threats are hindering the government's efforts to fight "terrorism."

Syria and its ally Russia have rejected allegations by activists and rescuers that a chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma over the weekend killed more than 40 people.

U.S. President Donald Trump blamed the suspected attack on Syrian government forces and has threatened to respond militarily, tweeting on Wednesday that missiles "will be coming."

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2:50 p.m.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says the "smart" missiles that U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to send to Syria will destroy evidence of a suspected chemical weapons attack.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday that the U.S. will be launching missiles at targets in Syria in response to the suspected chemical attack in a rebel-held area that killed at least 40 people.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, in a Facebook post later on Wednesday wondered if the chemical weapons watchdog investigating the reports has been warned that the missiles will destroy "all evidence" of the attack.

She adds: "Or is it the original idea to use the smart missiles to sweep the traces of the provocation under the rug?"

Both the Syrian government and Russia deny the attack ever took place.

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2:30 p.m.

Russian state news agencies are reporting that a high-level Russian delegation has arrived in Syria where it is going to meet with President Bashar Assad.

The visit that RIA Novosti and Tass reported on Wednesday comes amid growing expectation of U.S. retaliation against Syria for a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town.

The two state news agencies reported said the Russian delegation includes the governor of an oil-rich Siberian region and several lawmakers arrived earlier on Wednesday.

Tass in a news story out of the northern Syria city of Homs quoted lawmaker Dmitry Sablin refuting reports that Assad may have fled Syria. Sablin said Assad is in Damascus and is going to meet the Russian delegation.

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12:45 p.m.

The U.N. health agency says reports from its partners indicate some 500 patients showed signs of exposure to toxic chemicals following shelling on the Syrian town of Douma over the weekend.

The World Health Organization says patients at health facilities showed "signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed."

A WHO statement Wednesday did not confirm outright that a chemical weapons attack had taken place.

WHO also cited reports about the deaths of more than 70 people who sheltered in basements, saying 43 of those people who died had shown "symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals."

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Tuesday it would send "shortly" a fact-finding mission to Douma.

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11 a.m.

A senior Russian lawmaker has warned the United States that Russia would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened military action after last weekend's suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town near Damascus, which activists and rescuers say killed at least 40 people. The Syrian government and its ally Russia have denied that such an attack ever happened.

State news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday quoted Andrei Krasov, deputy chairman of the State Duma's defense committee, as saying that Russia will treat a U.S. airstrike on Syria "not just as an act of aggression but a war crime of the Western coalition."

Russia has been a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, providing air cover for his offensive against the Islamic State group and Syrian rebels. Russian military advisers are deployed at many Syrian government facilities.

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10:45 a.m.

European airspace authorities are warning aircraft to be careful over the next days when flying close to Syria because of possible military action against President Bashar Assad's forces.

The Eurocontrol airspace organization said that the European Aviation Safety Agency had sent a "Rapid Alert Notification" that flight operations needed to consider the possibility of air or missile strikes into Syria.

U.S. officials have consulted with global allies on a possible joint military response to Syria's alleged poison gas attack on a rebel-held town.

In a notice posted to Eurocontrol's website, EASA said: "Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken."

 
 

 

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