Investigators to visit Syria chemical attack site
Announcement follows days of delay amid fears evidence may have been destroyed
Investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have been cleared to visit the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma.
The OPCW team, which has been in Syria since Saturday, will be allowed to visit the site on Wednesday, after initially being denied access by Syria and Russia due to “security issues”.
A representative of the Russian military, who was speaking to journalists at The Hague, announced that permission had been granted for the OPCW investigators to visit Douma.
"Wednesday is when we expect the arrival of the OPCW experts and Russia is not preventing this in any way," Igor Kirillov said.
US officials are concerned that Russia “may have tampered with evidence at the site”, CNN reports.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the allegation, telling the BBC he could “guarantee that Russia has not tampered with the site.”
Both Syria and Russia have vehemently denied that any chemical weapons attack took place.
Russia’s envoy to the OPCW, Alexander Shulgin, accused the Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets of using US funds to fake the attack, calling it a “staged thing”.
The OPCW investigators are expected to gather soil and other samples from the site of the suspected attack to determine which substances, if any, were used in the attack.
But The Guardian says the organisation could be “fatally weakened” by Russian efforts to limit the OPCW’s “mandate to ascribe responsibility for attacks”.