Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed on Tuesday any suggestion that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's forces were behind a chemical attack that killed scores of people in Khan Sheikhun in the Idlib province in April.
"According to our information, there is no proof that chemical weapons were used by Assad. We are convinced that he didn't do it," Putin told the French daily newspaper Le Figaro, as quoted by Reuters.
Western governments have accused Assad’s government of being behind several chemical weapons attacks in the country, but Assad has repeatedly denied his government has any chemical weapons after agreeing to give them up to international monitors in 2013.
In fact, Assad claimed last month that the Khan Sheikhun attack was fabricated by the United States, insisting the Syrian army had already relinquished its chemical weapons reservoir.
The remarks by Putin, a close ally of Assad’s, came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country's intelligence services in April blamed Assad for the Idlib attack, said the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a red line for Paris and would result in reprisals.
Putin said he had offered to arrange inspections of the site in the town of Khan Sheikhun, but that all the major powers had refused. He said the objective of the allegations had been to discredit Assad and put pressure on him.
It was a way of "explaining to the international community why it was necessary to continue to impose measures to pressure Assad, including militarily," Putin said, according to Reuters.
The Syrian government surrendered its chemical weapons arsenal to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) international watchdog, though since that time the OPCW has determined that civilians in Syria may have been exposed to chemicals.
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said there was a "clear pattern" of chemical weapons use in Syria that could amount to crimes against humanity.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shavuot in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)