Disinfo: OPCW pressured by US to issue biased report on Douma chemical attack


The OPCW issued a biased report on the alleged chemical attack in Douma under pressure from the US, which needed a pretext for conducting air strikes in Syria. The report, compiled by the organisation’s Fact-Finding Mission [FFM] and issued in March 2019, states there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that a toxic chemical was used as a weapon in Douma in April 2018.

The paper contains multiple gaps and inconsistencies, and dismisses vital evidence which Russian and Syrian officials supplied to the OPCW, including over a dozen witness accounts attesting that no chemical attack had taken place in Douma. The witnesses said they had been forced to appear in fake footage of the purported attack devised by the White Helmets, an aid group with links to terrorists.

The truth about Douma has yet to be established, despite continuous efforts by Moscow and Damascus to facilitate an objective investigation.


This article is a part of an ongoing disinformation campaign surrounding the 2018 chemical attack in Douma, which claims that the incident was staged to demonise the Assad regime and Moscow’s role in the Syrian conflict.

The Kremlin began portraying the OPCW as an pawn in Western geopolitical designs around mid-2018, when the organisation was being granted new powers to assign blame for chemical attacks.

The FFM report on Douma clearly states the discovery of reactive chlorine and its derivatives in the affected area, at levels not naturally occurring in the local environment. The term “reasonable grounds” denotes a standard of proof routinely applied by the OPCW and several UN bodies (p. 3), and is based on available evidence as well as previous conduct of the suspected warring party.

Contrary to Moscow’s claim concerning the witnesses, their unverifiable testimony cannot be considered “very important information,” and thus the FFM report treats it as open-source material that may be used “for comparative purposes” (FFM report, p. 9), but not to formulate conclusions, in line with OPCW verification procedures (p. 24).

The probing of the alleged witnesses in The Hague was condemned by a number of governments as a publicity stunt, and raised concerns as to the veracity of their statements, as Moscow had ignored the OPCW’s request to interview the individuals first, and taking into account previous reports of witness intimidation by the Syrian government. Moreover, the footage of the attack shown at the OPCW briefing - which Moscow insisted had been fabricated by the White Helmets - had in fact been shot by a Syrian opposition group.

The truth about Douma is being continuously established through reporting, fieldwork, and expert investigations. Russia, however, has done much more to obstruct than to facilitate the process. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Russian military police denied OPCW inspectors access to the area citing “lack of coordination” with the UN Secretariat, a claim which prompted concerns over possible evidence-tampering and was later refuted by the UN. Meanwhile, admission was quickly granted to friendly journalists.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011, Russia has vetoed a dozen UN Security Council resolutions concerning Syria, of which six called for the launch or renewing of joint enquiries into chemical attacks in the country.


  • Reported in: Issue 141
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 12/03/2019
  • Language/target audience: English
  • Country: Russia, US, Syria
  • Keywords: OPCW, Chemical weapons/attack, Syrian War


Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

see more

Ukraine is under external control

No one doubts that Ukraine is under foreign control. The current government has handed over its sovereignty to the West [the EU and the United States]. Now, they decide what reforms we should have, who should be our friends, what are our priorities. At the same time, they do not help us to build a strong, independent state, they use Ukraine in their own interests.


Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about Ukraine and Ukrainian statehood.

Ukraine is a sovereign state. EU and US are not controlling Ukraine. Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected by most of the free world but violated by Russia.

Ukraine has already done everything possible to fence Crimea off

Despite the declared policy of the Crimea return, Ukraine has done everything possible to “cut off” the peninsula. The government of Ukraine took all steps to fence off Crimea. Among them are the blockade of electricity, water supplies the complication of bureaucratic procedures to stop moving people there and the delivery of goods to the peninsula from the Kherson region.


Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about Ukraine and Crimea.

According to the UN resolution of December 19, 2016, Russia was recognised as the Occupying Power, while Crimea was recognised as the temporarily occupied territory.

Measles outbreak in Ukraine is the fault of Acting Minister of Health Ulana Suprun and her reforms

Ukraine became the world leader for measles morbidity rates in 2018, due to the inactivity of the Ministry of Health and its head, Ulana Suprun. Suprun’s lack of professionalism resulted in Ukraine lacking measles vaccines: it was under her leadership that Ukraine’s Ministry of Health faced a shortage of many drugs.


This is another case of exacerbating the situation in the Ukrainian health sector, which follows the path of reform. As of February of this year, there have been 1,067,014 doses of measles, mumps and rubella vaccines in Ukrainian hospitals. This is a sufficient for providing vaccinations for the whole population. The main reason for the high measles outbreak in Ukraine is not a shortage of vaccines, but parents' refusal to vaccinate their children.

Information about "non-professional reforms" of healthcare in Ukraine is also incorrect. According to the latest assessment of the World Health Organization, Ukraine has achieved significant success on the path to the reorganisation of the health system and has earned the highest marks from the leading medical organisation in the world.