Russia has obtained intelligence that militants are plotting provocations with the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian province of Idlib, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OPCW, Ambassador to the Netherlands Alexander Shulgin told TASS on Friday.
“Yes, of course. [Russia has information]. The information comes constantly,” he said.
“We have held several meetings at the OPCW [the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]. I applied to the Technical Secretariat and handed them detailed information about a provocation in the Idlib province. We know surnames of the armed opposition leaders and the number of barrels with chlorine,” Shulgin said.
“We were hoping that the Secretariat would raise its voice, but it had never happened,” the ambassador added.
According to Shulgin, the provocations are highly likely, regardless of the fact that “the creation of a buffer zone and militants’ pullout from Idlib are under consideration.”
“At any moment, the militants might get involved in something,” Russia’s permanent representative said. “This threat is real and it is still looming.”
Russia has reiterated that members of the non-governmental organization White Helmets were getting ready to fake a chemical weapons attack against civilians. Their aim was to pin the blame for the chemical weapons attacks on the Syrian government forces and to justify the Western countries’ strikes on Syria.
In September, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and the White Helmets were making preparations to fake a chemical weapons attack and for this purpose, the banned nerve agent sarin had been transported to the Idlib province.
The September 17 talks between the Russian and Turkish Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Russia’s Sochi yielded an agreement to establish a demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib, along the contact line between government troops and the opposition by October 15.
At Ankara’s initiative, it is planned to withdraw the opposition’s tanks, multiple missile launcher systems, artillery systems and mortars from this zone by October 10. Control in this zone will be exercised by mobile patrol groups of Turkish troops and unites of Russian military police.
Idlib is the only large region in Syria that is still controlled by illegal armed groups. In 2017, a northern de-escalation zone was established in Idlib to give shelter to militants and their families who are reluctant to voluntarily surrender arms.