(CNSNews.com) – Russia and Syria's Assad regime have long accused blamed rebel groups for chemical weapons attacks. On Wednesday they seized on the reported discovery of riot-control gas to claim that the West was providing “internationally-banned poisonous materials” to militants.
The regime’s foreign ministry accused the U.S., Britain and their allies of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) by supplying them.
Deputy foreign minister Fayssal Mekdad pointed to article one, clause five of the convention, which says: “Each State Party undertakes not to use riot-control agents as a method of warfare.”
The charges came shortly after a Syrian human rights group claimed in a new report that the regime has carried out five chemical attacks in and around Damascus since a deadly April 4 toxic gas attack in Idlib province that prompted President Trump to order a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights said it documented five instances in which regime forces used grenades that appeared to have been loaded with chlorine gas. It reported symptoms including “suffocation, breathing difficulties, blurry vision, and muscle weakness” as well as “pupil constriction and burning redness in the eyes.”
Moscow has long backed the Assad regime’s denials of responsibility for toxic weapons attacks like one in Idlib’s Khan Sheikhun last April, which the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said involved the deadly nerve gas sarin, or a “sarin-like” substance.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quick to respond to the latest claims by Mekdad, who said the materials had been discovered in Aleppo and suburbs of Damascus.
“Here you can see all their [the West’s] commitment to international law and the triumph of democracy,” Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page.
“Supplying chemical agents to terrorists and using photos of killed children as a pretext is beyond one’s comprehension,” she added.
In a subsequent interview, Zakharova expanded.
“The consequences of the war that has been raging in Syria for many years are now being analyzed and material evidence has started to emerge – it has been mentioned many times at various levels,” the Tass news agency quoted her as telling Russia’s Vesti FM radio station
“The fact is that the Western states and regional countries have directly or indirectly supplied banned poisonous substances to militants, terrorists and extremists active in Syria,” she said.
Zakharova said Russian and international experts have long been drawing attention to the fact that Western countries, while claiming fealty to democratic principles and international law, “supply militants with things necessary to continue military activities on the territory of an independent state.”
She added that evidence of such support has been made available during bilateral Russia-U.S. talks.
Mekdad named two American and one British company as the manufacturers of the materials found. According to the companies’ websites, they produce non-lethal riot and crowd control equipment for law enforcement, including CS irritant cartridges and stun grenades.
The Assad regime’s SANA news agency reported that Mekdad called on the OPCW to investigate the provision by the U.S., Britain and Turkey of “internationally-banned poisonous materials” to rebel groups.
He also repeated charges that the U.S. had carried out the missile strike on an airbase in April based on “the fabrications and lies of the terrorists who claimed that the Syrian Arab Army carried out a chemical attack on the city of Khan Sheikhun.”
Russia and the Assad regime have claimed variously that the gas in the April incident was released after a rebel chemical weapons storage facility was bombed, or that the entire episode was a “false-flag” operation designed to trigger U.S. military intervention.