The statement released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday cited “Health Cluster partners” as the source of the information, which the UN body called a source of serious concern. Moscow believes that, considering the controversy surrounding Douma, the WHO has to clarify who those sources were exactly.
“According to our information, those partners are no one else than representatives of the notorious White Helmets group,” Gennady Gatilov, Russian envoy to the Geneva offices of the United Nations, told journalists.
“We asked the WHO to name those partners, the hospitals where the alleged 500 patients were treated, report who counted that number, who diagnosed them and so on,” he said, adding that the WHO staff “failed to provide detailed information to substantiate the claims in the statement.”
The diplomat added that under Russian pressure, the WHO said that the sources they received the information from were not based in Syria. Instead, the information came from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, “which explains why we have serious reservations about” the source, the diplomat said.
“There is only one operational hospital in Douma now. All the others are no longer operational,” Gatilov stated. “We cannot exclude that the WHO leadership had been pressured by some Western powers, which are interested in escalating the tension over Syria.”
The nature of the incident in Douma, which was reported on April 7 by pro-jihadist sources, remains a matter of debate. The sources blamed it on the Syrian government, with some nations, like the US, taking the report at face value and claiming that it justifies military action against the government forces. Moscow says the report’s evidence of the alleged attack was fabricated with an apparent goal to draw the US into attacking the victorious Syrian Army troops.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced on Tuesday that it will deploy a fact-finding mission to Douma, with Damascus pledging full cooperation to inspectors.