On April 22, Russian TV presenter Dmitry Kiselyov introduced his audience to an 11-year-old boy called Hassan Diab, who appeared in a video shortly after the alleged April 7 chemical attack in Douma, Syria. In that video, Diab is seen in a medical facility being drenched with water, ostensibly to cleanse any remnants of chlorine gas. The boy was later found by Russian correspondent Evgeny Poddubnyy, who conducted an interview in which the boy said that rescue workers staged the video of him in the hospital. That interview was widely promoted by Russian state media and Foreign Ministry officials.In the latest development, Friday, the boy turned up at the international body that investigates and monitors chemical weapons programs.
Poddubnyy claimed the boy was not coerced in any way during his interview and that the interview had taken place in Douma. However, an investigation by The Intercept, the online news site founded following Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations of NSA surveillance, determined that the interview had actually taken place on the grounds of a Syrian military establishment, specifically the Syrian Army Officers’ Club in Damascus.
On April 26, Russian representatives brought Hassan Diab to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague to testify on the attack in Douma. Media reports quote Hassan as saying that he did not know why the aid workers were dousing him with water in the video at the hospital that was released after the attack. The hearing was condemned by U.S., British, and French officials. French Ambassador Phillipe Lalliot called the testimony an “obscene masquerade.”
Kiselyov’s program also included part of an interview with Fares Muhammad Mayas, described as an ex-fighter from the rebel group Jaysh-al-Islam (Army of Islam), which was fighting in Douma prior to the chemical attack. Mayas stated that groups like the White Helmets deliberately stage scenes of chemical and aerial bombing attacks. As he was speaking, Kiselyov’s program broadcast still photographs which appeared to show a film crew working in Syria.
In reality, the still shots came from Syrian film director Humam Husari, who was making a film dramatizing a chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta that took place in 2013. The stills date back to 2016, long before the recent chemical attack in Douma.