Russia's top diplomat says he has evidence that an alleged chemical attack on a rebel-held city in Syria had been staged by foreign actors as a pretense to blame Syria and its international ally Moscow.
Sergey Lavrov's remarks to a press conference on Friday mirrored a statement delivered by French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday in which he said France had proof that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had carried out an attack on Douma that killed at least 70 people, including 40 who showed signs of exposure to chemical toxins.
"We have irrefutable evidence that it was another staging," the Kremlin's top diplomat told a press conference. "And the special forces of a state with is leading a Russophobic campaign played a role in the staging," he added.
Meanwhile Russia's defence ministry said on Friday Britain was involved in the suspected chemical attack in Douma, Reuters reported.
"We have ... evidence that proves Britain was directly involved in organising this provocation," defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said during a televised briefing.
Saturday's attack prompted swift condemnation from western governments, who unequivocally pointed the finger of blame at Assad, who relies on Russia and Iran in his war against armed opposition in Syria.
US President Donald Trump was one of the first to publicly lash out at Moscow and warned that he would launch a punitive missile strike against Syria in due course, although this militaristic rhetoric wound down the next day.
France, Britain, Germany and the US are discussing possible repercussions for the alleged chemical attack, but Russia has warned that any action could serve to further destabilise the region.