Russia Parades Syrian ‘Witnesses’ To Disprove Gas Attack

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -
An unidentified boy from Douma, Syria, speaks at a news conference in the Hague, Netherlands, Thursday. (Reuters/Michael Kooren)

Russia ratcheted up its efforts Thursday to try to disprove that a Syrian town was hit by a poison gas attack, bringing a group of Syrians, including an 11-year-old boy, to the global chemical weapons watchdog’s headquarters to denounce the reports as fake.

The U.S., Britain, France and their allies boycotted the event at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, branding it as “nothing more than a crude propaganda exercise” and an “obscene masquerade.”

The Syrians were flown to Europe to tell their stories at the OPCW and then ushered into a roomful of reporters at a nearby hotel where they all repeated nearly identical accounts: There was no chemical attack in Douma, near Damascus, on April 7. Patients who visited the hospital suffering from asphyxiation had inhaled only smoke and dust. There were no chemical traces or smells. Panic was sparked when first responders entered the hospital and began yelling that chemical weapons had been used.

One of them told reporters that the Syrians were in The Hague of their own free will and had not been put under any pressure.

The insistence by Russia and Syria that the chemical weapons attack was staged runs counter to witnesses and survivors interviewed by The Associated Press, some of them in Douma, who described being overwhelmed by a strong smell of chlorine.