Russia rehashing disinformation about Syrian chemical warfare against Ukraine

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that US private military contractors present in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine were preparing a “provocation using unknown chemical components”.

the state CASS The news agency quoting Shoigu reportedly told a Defense Ministry meeting in Moscow that more than 120 contractors were present in the towns of Avdiivka and Krasny Liman for “provocations”. He claimed that tanks full of “unidentified chemical components” had been delivered to cities, without providing any supporting evidence.

Shoigu’s claims are an almost exact copy of a Russian disinformation campaign waged against the Syrian Civil Defense (better known as the White Helmets) since mid-2018, accusing the search and rescue group of involvement in ‘provocations’ involving chemical weapons in rebel-held parts of Syria in an effort to legitimize Russian double-tap attacks on medical personnel. However, predictions made by the Russian and Syrian governments of impending chemical attacks have never come true, as Moscow continues to help Damascus evade responsibility for chemical warfare against civilian populations to this day.

The claims were flatly denied by the US Department of Defense later on Tuesday, with press secretary John Kirby saying at an off-camera press briefing that Shoigu’s statements were “completely untrue”. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense called the accusations deliberate misinformation on Wednesdaynoting that there had been similar claims in 2018, adding that claims from someone as highly placed as Shoigu should instead be taken seriously as preparations for a Russian provocation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was equally strident at Tuesday’s meeting, telling military officials present that the United States was “on our doorstep” because of its presence in Ukraine. He added: “And they should understand that we have nowhere to retreat. Do they think we’ll just watch and do nothing? »

Putin said Moscow would take “adequate military-technical response measures” in response to Western “hostile measures”. Although he did not detail what the measures entailed, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov claimed last week that Russia would redeploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe if the United States and NATO did not accept a Russian-proposed moratorium on their deployment using similar wording. . However, the specter of a warning from Ukraine’s military intelligence chief of an impending Russian incursion into Ukraine hangs over any Russian claims of “military responses”, even as Moscow continues to deny it intends to do so.