Russia says independent inspectors will be allowed to examine the alleged site of a chemical weapons attack last week in Syria, a day after authorities denied access to the area cited “pending security issues.”
Over the weekend, the U.S., the U.K. and France launched a series of airstrikes aimed at taking out Syria’s ability to produce chemical weapons.
A team of inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OCPW) has been in the country since Saturday but Syria and its ally, Russia, have until now prevented them from reaching the site of the alleged April 7 poison gas attack.
The two countries initially stalled the inspectors after having invited them in.
On Tuesady, however, the head of Russia’s radiological, biological and chemical protection unit, Igor Kirillov, said once the roads leading to the site are cleared of mines, they would be tested by UN security services and then the inspectors would be allowed access.
“On Wednesday is when we plan the arrival of the OPCW experts,” Kirillov said at a news conference in The Hague.
The U.S. and France say they have evidence that the attack was carried out by the government of Bashar al-Assad and directed against civilians, many of them children, in Duoma, a formerly rebel-held enclave of Damascus.
Syria has denied the attack and Russia has said that it was “staged.”
The U.S. Ambassador to the OCPW, Kenneth Ward, expressed Washington’s concern that 11 days after the attack, inspectors would find tampering of evidence.
“It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site,” Ward said at a meeting at The Hague on Monday.
“It is our concern that they may have tampered with it with the intent of thwarting the efforts of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission to conduct an effective investigation,” he said.
Speaking with the BBC, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied any interference. “I can guarantee that Russia has not tampered with the site,” he told the BBC.