Wednesday 20 June 2018

Russian military to deploy troops to site of 'chemical attack' after Trump's warning of 'smart missiles'

  • Trump warns missiles 'will be coming' in Syria
  • In response, Russia's Foreign Ministry called for Washington to destroy its chemical weapons
  • Russia also now deploying troops to site of purported chemical attack
  • Mr Trump and Western allies are considering military action to punish al-Assad for the reported poison gas assault
  • World Health Organization said around 500 people were injured in alleged assault
Donald Trump has spoken with other world leaders about a possible joint military response to the attack in Syria (Evan Vucci/AP)
Donald Trump has spoken with other world leaders about a possible joint military response to the attack in Syria (Evan Vucci/AP)

Independent.ie Newsdesk and agencies

The Russian military has said it will deploy troops to the Syrian town of Douma, which was the site of Saturday’s purported chemical attack.

The move comes after US President Donald Trump warned Russia of a forthcoming response to suspected chemical attack in Syria, declaring that missiles "will be coming" and blasting Moscow for standing by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday it did not engage in "Twitter diplomacy" after U.S. President Donald Trump used the social media platform to warn Russia of imminent military action in Syria, the Interfax news agency reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying that care should be taken not to aggravate the situation in Syria.

"We do not participate in Twitter diplomacy," Peskov was quoted as saying by Interfax. "We support serious approaches. We continue to believe that it is important not to take steps that could harm an already fragile situation."

A child rests in the medical clinic after receiving treatment for the chemical attack Photo: Getty
A child rests in the medical clinic after receiving treatment for the chemical attack Photo: Getty

Russia's Foreign Ministry has also called for Washington to destroy its chemical weapons, mocking a proposal by U.S. President Donald Trump to put an end to a global arms race.

Trump earlier on Wednesday wrote on Twitter that Washington's ties with Russia were at their worst ever point. "There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?" Trump wrote.

"Great idea!" Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, wrote on Facebook, commenting on Trump's suggestion. "There is a proposal to start with the destruction of chemical weapons. The American ones," she wrote.

Mr Trump and Western allies are considering military action to punish al-Assad for the reported poison gas assault on Saturday in the town of Douma, which had long had held out against a government siege. Damascus said reports of a gas attack are false.

But the World Health Organization said around 500 people had been treated for "signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals" after a suspected poison gas attack in a Syrian rebel enclave just before it fell.

"In particular, there were signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed," the United Nations health agency said in a statement issued in Geneva.

It cautioned that the WHO has no formal role in forensic inquiries into the use of chemical weapons. International chemical weapons inspectors are seeking assurances from Damascus of safe passage to and from Douma to determine whether globally banned munitions were used, though will not assign blame.

WHO also said that more than 70 people sheltering from bombardment in basements in the former rebel pocket of eastern Ghouta, where Douma is located, were reported to have died.

It said 43 of those deaths were "related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals," citing reports from its local health partners.

"We should all be outraged at these horrific reports and images from Douma," said Peter Salama, WHO's deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response.

"WHO demands immediate unhindered access to the area to provide care to those affected, to assess the health impacts, and to deliver a comprehensive public health response," he said.

The Syrian government has called US threats to attack "reckless", saying they endanger international peace and security.

U.N. aid agencies lack access to most of eastern Ghouta, from which rebels are withdrawing under a deal with the Syrian government that restored its control over the region.

WHO said it had trained more than 800 Syrian health workers to recognise symptoms and treat patients for chemical weapons exposure. The U.N. agency has also distributed antidotes for nerve agents, including in besieged Douma last year.

Tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in Douma, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday, and it demanded access to the area.

More than 133,000 people are estimated to have fled a desperate humanitarian situation in eastern Ghouta over the past four weeks, UNHCR added.

Reuters

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