Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed confidence that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had no role in the April chemical attack in Idlib Province, describing the incident as the West’s pretext to continue its pressure against Damascus.
“According to our information, there is no proof that chemical weapons were used by Assad. We are convinced that he did not do it,” Putin said in a Tuesday interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro.
The allegation was a way of “explaining to the international community why it was necessary to continue to impose measures to pressure Assad, including militarily,” Putin added.
The remarks came a day after new French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country blames Assad for the attack, slammed the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a red line for Paris which would result in reprisals.
Putin said he had offered to arrange inspections of the site of the chemical attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun, but all the major powers had rejected the proposal.
Over 80 people died in the April 4 purported gas attack on Khan Shaykhun, which the Western countries blamed on the Syrian government.
Using the incident as a pretext, US warships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea at the Shayrat airfield in Syria’s central province of Homs on April 7. US officials claimed that the suspected Khan Shaykhun gas attack had been launched from the military site.
The Syrian government has fiercely denied using or even possessing chemical weapons since the country’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention was certified by international observers in 2013.