(CNN) – Chemical weapons investigators are due to travel Wednesday to the site of a suspected Syrian chemical weapon attack in Douma, if it’s safe enough, according Syria’s ambassador to the UN.
Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told a UN Security Council meeting that a United Nations security team had entered the city east of Damascus on Tuesday to assess the security situation.
He said the regime had done “all that it can do to facilitate the work” of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspectors who had already started their investigation, listening to witnesses to the suspected April 7 chemical attack.
The OPCW inspectors are tasked with assessing whether banned chemical substances were used in the April 7 attack on the city, which senior US officials have said involved both chlorine and sarin gas. Russia has denied a chemical attack took place at all, saying it was faked.
Relations between Russia and the Western allies that launched co-ordination strikes on Syria in response to the suspected chemical attack have deteriorated in recent days.
The Russian military announced Tuesday in state media it had discovered a chemical laboratory and warehouse in Douma allegedly run by “militants.”
“While inspecting them, specialists of the radiation, chemical and biological protection force discovered chemical substances controlled by the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” Alexander Rodionov, a Russian chemical weapons specialist told Rossiya-24 TV, as reported by TASS.
“A conclusion can be made that this laboratory was used by illegal armed formations for the production of chemical agents,” he said. The TASS report added that the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the Warring Sides examined Douma on April 9, two days after the alleged attack, and found no trace of chemical weapons.
At a UN Security Council meeting Tuesday afternoon, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia called the behavior of the US, the UK and France “hypocritical.”
“Not even a day passed after the missile strikes when their organizers started putting forward strange and political initiatives,” Nebenzia said.
Nebenzia went on to call Washington and its allies “self-appointed executioners” and accused those countries of pressuring Russia to change its position after the latest round of airstrikes and a promised new round of sanctions.
“It’s time for the West to understand that this type of logic against Russia has never worked in the past and will never work in the future,” Nebenzia said.
Russian media reported that the UNSC meeting, convened at the request of Russia, focused on the humanitarian situation in ISIS’ former stronghold of Raqqa, and displaced persons in the Al-Rukban refugee camp on the border with Jordan
Kelley Currie , acting deputy representative of the US to the UN, accused Russia of distracting from the atrocities committed by the Assad regime.
“In order to do that, Russia has asked this council to focus its attention on the one part of Syria where the Assad regime isn’t pummeling civilians to death with barrel bombs or banned chemical weapons,” Currie said.
Currie said earlier that while the US went after ISIS and “actually achieved lasting gains for the Syrian people, the Assad regime was busy bombarding civilians in places like Aleppo, Idlib and Eastern Ghouta.”
“The United States will not stop focusing on the ways to achieve that goal, no matter how many times our Russian colleagues convene these cynical thinly disguised diversions,” she added.
Several intelligence and defense officials have told CNN that while US intelligence agencies weren’t absolutely sure the Syrian regime used the nerve agent sarin against civilians, the Trump administration still felt there was enough evidence to justify retaliatory strikes.
The lack of complete information played a role in deciding not to strike a larger set of targets including airfields, aircraft and helicopters, one defense official said. Others factors, like Russian positioning, also played a role in the decisions.
The need for certainty over the use of chemical weapons in Douma has placed increased pressure on the OPCW team tasked with verifying if chemicals, and which type, were used.
There was confusion earlier in the week whether the OPCW team had already arrived in Douma. The team has been in-country since the weekend but Russia and Syria had denied it access to Douma, Peter Wilson, the UK envoy to the chemical weapons watchdog group, said Monday.
Russia has repeatedly denied the accusation.
Syrian state TV and the White Helmets volunteer rescue group said separately that a fact-finding team from the organization arrived in the area, but a US State Department spokeswoman contradicted those reports on Tuesday afternoon.
“Our understanding is that the team has not entered Douma,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at the time.