Putin warns against ‘provocation and speculation’ on Syria chemical attack

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President Vladimir Putin in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday warned against speculation and “provocation” over the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syrian rebel-held Douma, the Kremlin said.

“The leaders exchanged opinions on the situation in Syria including the accusations against Damascus by a number of Western countries of using chemical weapons,” the Kremlin said in a statement. “The Russian side stressed the unacceptability of provocation and speculation on this matter.”

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert in a statement confirmed that “the situation in Syria was discussed” and Merkel “condemned the new gas attacks in the Syrian city of Douma.” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier in the day warned that “making any deductions is wrong and dangerous” over the apparent poison gas attack on Douma.

Peskov suggested that rebels could have staged the attack themselves to pin the blame on Damascus, something that Russia has recently warned could happen.

Rumors spread?

“Both the president and the defence ministry, citing intelligence sources, have spoken about such a provocation being prepared,” Peskov said. He added that this could mean the rebels carried out an attack using chemical weapons or spread rumors of such an attack.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian specialists had found no trace of a chemical attack on Douma. The Russian military said on Monday it had found no traces of a chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma, Interfax news agency reported.

The defence ministry said Russian military medics had examined patients in a hospital in Douma and found no symptoms of chemical poisoning, according to the agency.

(With Reuters inputs)