Russia says Syria chemical attack 'staged' by White Helmets
Russian officials have accused Syria's civil defence volunteers known as the "White Helmets" of staging the recent chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Douma.
Moscow has blamed the first responders in rebel-held areas for Saturday's chemical attack, which killed as many as 60 people and injured more than a 1,000.
Russia, a close ally of the Syrian regime, has pointed the finger at the White Helmets in the wake of similar incidents such as last year's chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.
Chemical weapons attacks have killed hundreds of people since the start of Syria's conflict, with the UN blaming four attacks on the Syrian regime and a fifth on the Islamic State group.
Since the latest attack, which has raised the spectre of US retaliation, Russian officials have attempted once again to assign blame to the humanitarian group.
"Acting purely as a terrorist organisation, the odious 'White Helmets' once again staged for the cameras a 'chemical attack' on the civilians of Douma," Lieutenant-General Viktor Poznikhir said at a briefing in Moscow on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Russia's ambassador to the European Union made the same accusation during an interview with Euronews.
"We've seen another staged event. There are personnel, specifically trained - and you can guess by whom - amongst the so-called White Helmets, who were already caught in the act with staged videos," Vladimir Chizov said.
The Russian defence ministry on Monday released a statement, accusing the White Helmets of disseminating fake reports.
The White Helmets have one been one of the main sources for information on the chemical attack on Douma.
The group categorically rejects the allegations made by Russian officials.
The UN's World Health Organisation has said around 500 patients in Douma attended health facilities with "signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals".
The Syrian regime and the Kremlin both deny responsibility of the chemical attack and have questioned whether the attack even happened, despite footage from Douma with strong evidence suggesting a chemical attack.
US President Donald Trump confirmed on Wednesday that Washington will be conducting a retaliatory attack in Syria, telling Russia to "get ready" after they threatened to "shoot down" US missiles and warplanes.