Russia has justified its ally Damascus against international uproar over Syria's chemical attack, stating that the air strike hit a terrorist warehouse that makes bombs with toxic substances.
Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, admitted that Syrian planes had attacked Khan Sheikhoun. Meanwhile it also defended the move of Damascus saying “the aircraft had struck a depot producing mines filled with a poisonous substance, for use by militants in Iraq.”
"Yesterday [Tuesday], from 11:30am to 12:30pm local time, Syrian aviation made a strike on a large terrorist ammunition depot and a concentration of military hardware in the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun town," Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konoshenkov was quoted as saying by BBC News today.
"On the territory of the depot there were workshops which produced chemical warfare munitions." he added. Critics of the Russian statement say reports of the release of gas came hours before the times stated by Mr Konoshenkov.
The suspected chemical attack has killed scores of civilians. At least 72 civilians, among them 20 children, were killed in Tuesday's attack in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun, and many were left gasping for air, convulsing, and foaming at the mouth.
USA and UK accused President Bashar al-Assad's government for the attack but the regime has denied using chemical weapons. Syria's army had earlier denied any use of chemical weapons, saying it "has never used them, anytime, anywhere, and will not do so in the future."
UN chief Antonio Guterres responded Wednesday saying the "horrific events" showed that "war crimes are going on in Syria".
If confirmed, the attack would be among the worst incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria's brutal civil war, which has killed over 320,000 people since it began in March 2011, AFP reported today.
It unfolded in the early hours of Tuesday morning, with airplanes carrying out strikes that released "toxic gas" on Khan Sheikhun, in the north-western province of Idlib, according to witnesses and a monitoring group.
"We ran inside the houses and saw whole families just dead in their beds," resident Abu Mustafa told AFP of the attack's aftermath, "Children, women, old people dead in the streets."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said at least 160 people suffered the effects of the gas, with medical sources reporting incidents of vomiting, fainting, breathing problems and foaming at the mouth.