The intelligence services of France and Belgium are preparing a false-flag chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province, in coordination with local terrorist cells and the pseudo-humanitarian White Helmets group. Once filmed, the footage will be doctored to “prove” Moscow’s involvement in the attack.
Russia has repeatedly warned of Western false-flag operations in Syria, such as the planned September 2018 chemical attack designed to justify coalition airstrikes on Syrian government troops. The operation was exposed by Moscow and aborted.
The report is an amalgam of recurring pro-Kremlin narratives blaming Western governments and organizations for "false-flag attacks" in Syria; painting the White Helmets as terrorists; and deflecting blame from the Assad regime.
The Russian Defence Ministry provides no evidence for its claims. It relies instead on false precision as to the timing of the operation; the parties involved; the character and packaging of the chemical substance to be used; and the dollar equivalent of compensation to be paid out to "actors."
For its part, the Belgian Defence Ministry denied the allegations and gave assurances of its strict observance of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It has also been noted that Belgium has "neither a tradition, nor the connections, nor even the means of carrying out such a sensitive operation in war zones today."
This is not the first time Belgium has been targeted by Kremlin disinformation. In October 2016, Moscow claimed that the country's fighter jets had opened fire on a village near Aleppo, killing multiple civilians. Brussels responded that no Belgian Air Force craft were present in the Aleppo area at the time of the incident, and promptly debunked the accusations.
The French Foreign ministry also denied the allegations: “This is not about information, but about coarse lies, which for this center [Russian Center for the Reconciliation of Conflicting Parties], organized by the Russian and Syrian authorities, is customary,” the representative of the French Foreign Ministry said, answering a question from RIA Novosti.
Similarly, no proof was ever given that the White Helmets were preparing a chemical strike in 2018. When the claim fell flat by virtue of the "attack" never actually occurring, Moscow cited the very same disinformation narrative to give itself credit for "exposing" the plot.
Notwithstanding the Kremlin's repeated "warnings" of imminent chemical attacks (real or staged) to be carried out by Western actors, available evidence stubbornly continues to link such incidents to the Syrian regime. By September 2018, UN human rights investigators had identified 39 chemical attacks perpetrated in Syria since 2013, of which 33 were attributed to Damascus. The perpetrators of the remaining six are yet to be identified. Another in-depth analysis notes as many as 336 attacks since 2012, 98% of those attributed to Assad.
The OPCW's final report on Douma's incident in 2018 does not leave any doubts on the detection of chlorine on Douma: "based on the levels of chlorinated organic derivatives, detected in several environmental samples gathered at the sites of alleged use of toxic chemicals, which are not naturally present in the environment, the FFM concludes that the objects from which the samples were taken at both locations had been in contact with one or more substances containing reactive chlorine" (page 3 of the report).