Putin remains murderous Assad's accomplice after Syria chemical attack

Dominic Waghorn, Diplomatic Editor

There is no reason to believe anything will change despite the international outrage at the Assad regime gassing its own people.

The pattern will remain the same: atrocity provokes condemnation and outrage and is met with unconvincing denials by Syria and its Russian sponsors.

Then international efforts to investigate and punish are stymied by Russia and China in the UN Security Council.

:: UK: Evidence suggests Assad behind gas attack

Russia shows no sign of giving up its role as lying accomplice to the murderous Assad regime. If that sounds conspiratorial and biased, consider the facts.

Russia has repeatedly lied about its role in Syria. It uses misinformation as a tactic there and elsewhere.

Consider how it lied after the shooting down of passenger flight MH17 in the skies over Ukraine . Its misinformation even contradicted itself.

It produced false information - some of it plagiarised, some self-contradictory - to claim a Ukrainian plane had shot down the Malaysian airlines jet.

It took amateur citizen journalists little time to prove that the satellite imagery Russia supplied had been deliberately and crudely altered and misdated.

But Russia knows if it throws enough false leads into the debate, enough chaff to distract observers, it undermines the truth by generating enough doubt.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin is a master of distraction and deception.

The same tactics have served him well in Syria. There is convincing evidence his air force has deliberately targeted hospitals, medical centres and aid convoys and supported its allies doing the same.

His lies that his forces are there only to destroy ISIS have provided a smokescreen obfuscating his primary motive, the cynical ambition to keep Bashar al Assad in power.

Now that Assad has apparently gassed hundreds of his own people, Russia's misinformation machine is up to its familiar tricks.

Its various branches have already claimed the attack has all the hallmarks of rebel activity. This despite eye witnesses saying the lethal gas was dropped by a plane and the rebels having no air force.

At the same time it has also claimed contradictorily that the airstrike was targeting a rebel chemical munitions factory.

Throw enough chaff out there and you will sow doubt in the minds of observers. Especially if that chaff is thrown far and wide by a cyber army of thousands, bot farms and trolls and the foolish on social media disseminating the propaganda because they know no better.

The Syrian civil war has produced horror after horror, but even by its terrible standards the attack in Khan Sheikhoun is among the worst. The death toll, likely use of sarin and ensuing airstrikes on the medical facilities treating its victims give it that distinction.

But with no sign of Russia adopting a more responsible role in the UN, it is hard to see how even this outrage will change anything.

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