US Says Russia May Have Tampered With Chemical Attack Site

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

SIMON: Charles, remind us, again, what is the Russian interest in Syria?

Early Saturday morning local time, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that more than 100 missiles were fired by the USA -led coalition retaliating against Syrian President Bashar al-Assads suspected use of chemical weapons.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the military had "proof that testifies to the direct participation of Britain in the organising of this provocation in Eastern Ghouta".

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council called by Russia Friday that "there is no military solution to the conflict".

Assad said the airstrikes would "only increase the determination of Syria and its people to continue fighting and crushing terrorism in every inch of the country", according to Syrian state TV. He added that Washington seems determined to take military action in Syria and this is risky. Some Russian statements indicated that the Syrian events were a false flag and might have been done as a pretext to attack Syria.

Nikki Haley told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called by Russian Federation that should the United States and its allies decide to act in Syria it will be to defend "a bedrock worldwide norm that benefits all nations" - the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.

"Those three countries - the US, Britain and France - if they think they can attack us and attack our sovereignty, at the time, we would have no other choice except applying Article 51 of the charter that gives us the right to defend ourselves, the legitimate right to defend ourselves", Jaafari said.

US President Donald Trump emerged from a meeting with his national security team on Thursday without a "final decision" on how to respond to the suspected chemical attack. Last month the Trump administration blamed Russian Federation for a campaign of cyber attacks stretching back at least two years that targeted the USA power grid.

"I hope no one would dare to launch such an adventure now", Lavrov said.

Russia, the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, says there is no evidence of a chemical attack in Douma and has warned the United States and its allies against conducting any military strike.

The military action is not about intervening in Syria's civil war or changing its government, she said.

As described by The Guardian, the White Helmets have been "the target of an extraordinary disinformation campaign ... propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government (which provides military support to the Syrian regime)". The inspectors aim to collect samples, interview witnesses and document evidence to determine whether banned toxic munitions were used, although they are not permitted to assign blame for the attack.

"We are carrying out an assessment of the material damages", the official added.

Trump, who unleashed a one-off USA cruise missile salvo a year ago in response to a chemical attack blamed on Assad's forces, reacted with fury and threatened a renewed intervention.

The Russian defense ministry and the Kremlin had yet to make any comment on the strikes.

Defence Minister Marise Payne said about 400 Australian companies were targeted in the 2017 attacks, but there was no "exploitation of significance".

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