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Sebastian Murphy-bates For Mailonline

British Prime Minister Theresa May is meeting with her cabinet to discuss strikes against Syria after a chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma.

Russia says Syrian forces have retaken the Eastern Ghouta region as the diplomatic fallout between Vladimir Putin and the UK intensifies following the poisoning of  double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will report at midday, followed by a statement from UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at 1.30pm.

Yulia said ‘no one talks for me’ in a statement as the Russian Embassy criticised London police for issuing a statement that was not read on camera by Yulia.  

LATEST:  

Thursday 18:42 BST: Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, has urged the US and its allies not to attack the Syrian regime in retaliation for the chemical attack, adding that its immediate priority is to ‘avert the danger of war’. 

Thursday 18:27 BST: The USA has requested the extradition of five Bulgarian citizens who are accused of breaching the embargo on Syria, Reuters reports.  

Thursday 18:15 BST: A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry has told Sky News that it will protect its people on the ground in Syria in the event of attacks on the country.

Thursday 18:14 BST: NBC News reports that US officials have identified the presence of chlorine and a nerve agent in blood and urine samples from victims of the Syrian gas attack.  

Thursday 18:01 BST: Sweden has proposed a way for the paralysed UN Security Council to make progress on the Syria crisis by sending a disarmament team to the country to find out about chemical weapons there ‘once and for all’, AP reports. 

Thursday 17:58 BST: US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said he believes there was a chemical attack in Syria and said is ‘looking for the actual evidence’. Speaking to Congress, he added: ‘As each day goes by — as you know, it is a non-persistent gas — so it becomes more and more difficult to confirm it.’

Thursday 17:30 BST: Reuters reports that Syria will hold the West responsible for any delay in the arrival of a mission from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate the chemical attack.  

Thursday 17:10 BST: Speaker of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan has said President Trump has ‘the authority he needs to do what he may or may not do’ – and without congressional approval. He added that the US ‘has an obligation’ to respond to Assad, Iran and Russia after the ‘mass atrocity’. 

Thursday 16:56 BST: Sweden has circulated a draft UN resolution on sending a UN mission to Syria to rid the country of chemical weapons ‘once and for all’. 

Paul Ryan (pictured) said the US ‘has an obligation’ to respond to Assad, Iran and Russia after the ‘mass atrocity’ 

Thursday 16:48 BST: Donald Trump has confirmed he will hold a meeting on the situation in Syria today. ‘We’re looking very very seriously very closely at that situation,’ he said. ‘It’s too bad that the world puts us in a position like that. 

‘As I said this morning we’ve done a great job with ISIS.

‘Now we have to make some more decisions.’ 

Thursday 16:43 BST: US Defence Secretary James Mattis has said he will discuss options on Syria at a National Security Council meeting today. 

Thursday 16:38 BST: CIA Director Mike Pompeo has called for ‘more work to be done’ in terms of sanctions for Russia, as Putin’s fall-out with the West continues to unfold against the backdrop of the Syrian crisis. 

Thursday 16:31 BST: Sweden has proposed a United Nations Security Council resolution to ask UN chief Antonio Guterres for a high-level disarmament team to be sent to Syria to address ‘all outstanding issues on the use of chemical weapons once and for all’.

Thursday 16:20 BST: Syrian and Russian soldiers have been pictured waiting at the entrance of the Wafideen Camp as buses carrying Jaish al-Islam fighters and their family members approach. The fighters were evacuated from Douma today after Saturday’s chemical weapons attack.

The Syrian and Russian military forces waited at the entrance to the camp as opposition fighters arrived following evacuation 

The Syrian and Russian military forces waited at the entrance to the camp as opposition fighters arrived following evacuation 

The Syrian and Russian military forces waited at the entrance to the camp as opposition fighters arrived following evacuation 

Thursday 16:18 BST: Italy has announced it will not take part in any military action against Assad in Syria, but will provide logistical support to its allies. Caretaker Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni had numerous ‘international’ contacts on Thursday, including with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  

Thursday 16:16 BST: Conservative deputy chairman James Cleverly MP has told Sky News there is an international consensus that the use of chemical weapons is ‘absolutely beyond the pale’ as Prime Minister Theresa May decides how Britain will respond to the Syrian situation.

The UK's home secretary, Amber Rudd, is pictured arriving at Downing Street this morning after Theresa May summoned the 'war cabinet'

The UK's home secretary, Amber Rudd, is pictured arriving at Downing Street this morning after Theresa May summoned the 'war cabinet'

The UK’s home secretary, Amber Rudd, is pictured arriving at Downing Street this morning after Theresa May summoned the ‘war cabinet’

Thursday 16:03 BST: US Defence Secretary James Mattis said the use of chemical weapons in Syria is ‘simply inexcusable, beyond the pale and in the worst interest of not just the chemical weapons convention but of civilization itself’. 

Thursday 16:03 BST: The Scottish National Party has warned UK Prime Minister Theresa May not to ‘plough ahead’ with strikes on Syria, echoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s and Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable’s demands for Parliament to have a say.

Thursday 16:02 BST: A ‘war cabinet’ meeting is underway at 10 Downing Street, as Sky News reports it is unlikely the UK Parliament will be consulted on military action against Syria, bucking the convention of recent years.  

Thursday 15:56 BST: US Defence Secretary James Mattis has told Congress that Russia is complicit in Syria’s retention of chemical weapons. He confirmed that he believes a chemical attack took place in Douma on Saturday.

Thursday 15:45 BST: US Defence Secretary James Mattis has said that his country is committed to ending the Syrian civil war using the Geneva process. The United Nations ambassador for Syria has announced the chemical weapons watchdog will arrive in his country today. 

Thursday 15:40 BST: Moscow has refused to accept the conclusions of the OPCW report on the Salisbury spy poisoning after the watchdog said Novichok was used against Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. ‘Russia won’t take on faith any conclusion relating to the Skripal affair until such a time as Russian experts are allowed access to the samples mentioned,’ foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. 

Thursday 15:39 BST: Protesters are interrupting the start of current CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s hearing in the Senate to be the next secretary of state by chanting ‘no Pompeo’ and ‘no more war’. In prepared remarks for his confirmation, Pompeo chastised Russia for acting ‘aggressively’ and said Trump considers Russia ‘a danger to our country’. He stressed America’s ‘duty to lead’ but also says diplomatic efforts ‘must continue’. 

Protesters voice their opposition as CIA Director Mike Pompeo prepares to testify before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing

Protesters voice their opposition as CIA Director Mike Pompeo prepares to testify before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing

Protesters voice their opposition as CIA Director Mike Pompeo prepares to testify before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing

Thursday 15:23 BST: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia needs to study the OPCW report, TASS news agency reports. The global chemical weapons watchdog concluded on Thursday that the lethal poison that struck Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia last month in England was a highly pure type of Novichok nerve agent, backing Britain’s findings. Ryabkov said Russia would not give its view on the report before being able to study it. 

Thursday 15:21 BST: The Russian Foreign Ministry says there is reason to believe the OPCW report on the nerve agent used in Salisbury is part of a British operation to discredit Russia.   

Thursday 14:59 BST: The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said that the Skripals are being held in isolation. She said no one except British authorities had seen poisoned former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia for over a month, contrasting the situation with the case of Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-KGB agent who died in 2006 in London after drinking green tea laced with radioactive polonium. She said that at least a photograph of Litvinenko had appeared after his poisoning. 

Thursday 14:57 BST: Ministers for the British government are entering 10 Downing Street to meet with prime minister Theresa May, who has summoned her ‘war cabinet’.

Thursday 14:51 BST: In a press briefing this afternoon, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Maria Zakharova said her country is ‘not seeking escalation’, and told Western countries considering military action: ‘Nobody has authorised Western leaders to take on the role of global police – simultaneously investigator, prosecution, judge and executor.’ 

The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry (pictured) accused the UK of engaging in 'provocation against the Russian Federation'

The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry (pictured) accused the UK of engaging in 'provocation against the Russian Federation'

The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry (pictured) accused the UK of engaging in ‘provocation against the Russian Federation’

Thursday 14:45 BST: The German Foreign Ministry has said Russia must address open questions about the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury, UK.  

Thursday 14:28 BST: The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, accused the UK of engaging in ‘provocation against the Russian Federation’. Expressing anger that Britain has not shared images of the Sergei Skripal and his daughter, she said Russia is not ‘standing aside if London doesn’t want to listen to our requests to be involved in the investigation’. She accused UK authorities of ‘incoherence’ and ‘a lot of stupid leakages’ as well as ’emotional statements made by Theresa May.  

Thursday 14:20 BST: Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has urged the world to consider the consequences of threats made over Syria and called on the World Health Organisation to remain impartial. 

Thursday 14:17 BST: Turkish President Erdogan has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone about the situation in Syria. 

Thursday 14:10 BST: Russia’s Foreign Ministry had said Putin’s troops found no evidence of a chemical attack in Douma on Saturday, referring to it as ‘mythical’.  

Thursday 14:06 BST: Britain has requested a UN Security Council meeting based on the OPCW report.

Thursday 13:46 BST: The SNP has said Theresa May must recall Parliament to allow MPs to debate on the UK’s response to Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons. SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford said: ‘Theresa May must recall Parliament on Saturday so that MPs can discuss the suspected use of chemical weapons in Syria, and the appropriate response to these abhorrent attacks.’ 

Thursday 13:26 BST: Rebels in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta surrendered their heavy weapons and their leader left the enclave today, signalling the end of the seven-year civil war, AFP reports. British based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said: Jaish al-Islam fighters handed over their heavy weapons to Russian military police in the town of Douma on Wednesday.’ 

Thursday 13:22 BST: Photo confirmation, released by the official Syrian news agency SANA, of Bashar al-Assad meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Damascus, Syria. 

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian president Bashar Assad, left, meets with Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Damascus, Syria

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian president Bashar Assad, left, meets with Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Damascus, Syria

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian president Bashar Assad, left, meets with Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Damascus, Syria

The pair met as Western forces weigh up military options against Assad following a chemical attack earlier this week

The pair met as Western forces weigh up military options against Assad following a chemical attack earlier this week

The pair met as Western forces weigh up military options against Assad following a chemical attack earlier this week

Thursday 13:20 BST: British jets are being prepared in Norfolk today as they get ready to join Syrian air strikes. Engineers were seen checking over the fighter jets at RAF Marham as Theresa May and her cabinet draw up plans for British military action.  

A Tornado jet at RAF Marham in Norfolk on Thursday April 12th as they prepare for a possible strike on Syria

A Tornado jet at RAF Marham in Norfolk on Thursday April 12th as they prepare for a possible strike on Syria

A Tornado jet at RAF Marham in Norfolk on Thursday April 12th as they prepare for a possible strike on Syria

The jets in Norfolk are getting ready to join the Syrian air strikes - following today's special cabinet meeting

The jets in Norfolk are getting ready to join the Syrian air strikes - following today's special cabinet meeting

The jets in Norfolk are getting ready to join the Syrian air strikes – following today’s special cabinet meeting

Thursday 13:12 BST: Italian President Sergio Mattarella sought reassurances from political leaders that they would adhere to Italy’s NATO commitments. ‘There’s no doubt he (Mattarella) is worried,’ a source in the president’s office told Reuters, adding he wanted guarantees from party chiefs that they backed Italy’s well-established Western military allegiances. La Repubblica newspaper reported on Thursday that Mattarella wanted to speed up the coalition talks to give Italy a fully fledged government as soon as possible to deal with Syria. 

Thursday 12:51 BST: The top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader says he hopes Assad and his allies would ‘expel the occupying Americans’ out of eastern Syria and take Idlib in the northwest from insurgents. ‘Idlib is an important Syrian city, and we hope it will be liberated very soon,’ Ali Akbar Velayati said in Damascus. 

Thursday 12:46 BST: Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, has claimed there is ‘tremendous unity’ across the West on how to deal with the situation in Syria.

Thursday 12:38 BST: German Chancellor Angela Merkel says her country will not join any strikes on Syria and called for a whole spectrum of measures to be considered. Speaking Berlin, she said it is ‘obvious’ that Syria didn’t eradicate chemical arsenal.

Thursday 12:25 BST: The UK has called for a meeting with global watchdog on April 18 to discuss nerve agent attack. The government called for a session of the executive council of the OPCW after the body issued a report confirming Britain’s findings on the identity of a nerve agent used in an attack last month. The Russian Embassy in London said it also wants talks.

Thursday 12:17 BST: French President Emmanuel Macron said France would respond to ‘proof’ Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons ‘at a time of our choosing, when we judge it to be the most useful and the most effective’. 

Thursday 12:12 BST: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says there can be ‘no doubt’ Novichok was used in Salisbury and has demanded answers from the Kremlin. ‘There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible – only Russia has the means, motive and record,’ he added, pledging to send the report to Vladimir Putin’s government.

Thursday 12:09 BST: French President Emmanuel Macron says he has proof that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on Saturday.

Thursday 12:06 BST: Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable says his party does not rule out military action in Syria, but told Sky News that Prime Minister Theresa May will have to make a compelling case for him to back the action.  

Thursday 12:04 BST: The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said an analysis of samples collected after the Salisbury nerve agent attack confirm the findings of the UK ‘relating to the identity of the toxic chemical’ used in the incident. The OPCW noted that the chemical was of ‘high purity’ with an ‘almost complete absence’ of any impurities.

Thursday 11:47 BST: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Sky News in Derby, England, that the Syrian regime should be held to account by international law and sanctions if necessary, re-iterating that he did not back military action after Saturday’s chemical attack. 

Thursday 11:39 BST: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned Western threats will lead to further chaos in the region. ‘These voices, and any possible actions, will only contribute to further destabilisation in the region, he said, during a meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy advisor to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  

Thursday 11:29 BST: Germany’s foreign minister says it expects to be consulted before any Western allies conduct an attack on Assad’s forces. Heiko Maas says ‘it’s important at the same time to maintain pressure on Russia’, adding ‘if we want to do that, we the Western partners cannot diverge in our approaches’. Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Emmanuel Macron today to express concerns that the ability to ban chemical weapons was eroding. 

Thursday 11:20 BST: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded that MPs should be consulted before the UK joined any attack on Syria, citing ‘the lessons of Iraq’ regarding evidence used in the case for war. ‘Parliament must be consulted on this,’ he said. ‘The dangers of bombing now, which could escalate the conflict beyond belief. Just imagine the scenario if an American missile shoots down a Russian plane or vice versa. Where do we go from there?’ 

Thursday 11:18 BST: A top Iranian official is meeting with Bashar al-Assad as the Syrian dictator says threats made against Syria by Western states are based on lies, reports the Syrian Arab News Agency. 

Thursday 11:14 BST: Donald Trump has Tweeted saying that he never said when an attack on Assad would take place. 

Thursday 11:13 BST: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he will speak with Vladimir Putin about how their countries can stop chemical attacks in Syria. Erdogan says he is ‘extremely worried’ by the ‘arm wrestling’ of world powers over Syria. He will speak to Putin later today on ‘how we stop this chemical massacre’ after Saturday’s attack reportedly killed dozens. 

Thursday 11:11 BST: French President Emmanuel Macron will give a television interview around midday amid speculation that his country could intervene in Syria.  

Thursday 11:06 BST:  Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has condemned Donald Trump’s rhetoric on Syria and said: ‘More bombing, more killing, more war will not save life.’ 

Thursday 10:55 BST: Thousands of Syrians from the city of Douma were seen arriving in Aleppo in pictures that emerged this morning. The 18th convoy brought civilians and opposition fighters as 74 buses carried 3,548 people, including 1,346 children and 877 women, who will be provided with temporary accommodation in Al-Bab’s temporary refugee camps. 

Children as well as opposition fighters were seen arriving in Aleppo last night following the chemical attack on Saturday

Children as well as opposition fighters were seen arriving in Aleppo last night following the chemical attack on Saturday

Children as well as opposition fighters were seen arriving in Aleppo last night following the chemical attack on Saturday

Thousands arrived in Aleppo as 74 buses carried 1,346 children as well as 877 women and transported opposition fighters to safety

Thousands arrived in Aleppo as 74 buses carried 1,346 children as well as 877 women and transported opposition fighters to safety

Thousands arrived in Aleppo as 74 buses carried 1,346 children as well as 877 women and transported opposition fighters to safety

Thursday 10:33 BST: Communications between the US and Russian forces in Syria are ‘active’: The Kremlin announced a special hotline has opened for both military deployments to talk. ‘This line exists and it’s in an active state,’ spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that the line intended to prevent accidental clashes ‘is used by both sides’.   

Thursday 10:17 BST: The Kremlin says Russia is paying close attention to statements issued from Washington about the situation in Syria. It says there is currently no planned phone call between presidents Putin and Trump. 

Thursday 10:13 BST: GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming has spoken out against the Kremlin at the CyberUK conference in Manchester. Citing the Novichok nerve agent attack in Salisbury, the British intelligence head said the incident demonstrated ‘how reckless Russia is prepared to be’ and that Assad’s biggest ally cares little ‘for international rules-based order’. 

Thursday 09:48 BST: Brexit secretary David Davis – who opposed action against Assad when David Cameron was the prime minister, has said that he does not have the same concerns about striking Syria as he did then, Mirror Online reports. He said the UK must make ‘very careful, very deliberate judgment’. 

Thursday 09:43 BST: UK former intelligence chief Sir John Sawers has backed retaliation against Bashar al-Assad. But he also told BBC Radio 4’s Today show that Donald Trump was wrong to communicate with Moscow over Twitter. Sir John – who led MI6 from 2009 to 2014 – said the president was right that action is needed, adding the international taboo against chemical weapons use must be restored. 

Thursday 08:31 BST: Russia has announced Syrian forces have retaken Eastern Ghouta after satellite images appeared to show Putin’s warships being deployed. A Syrian flag is flying at the location of the chemical attack on Saturday,The Guardian reports.  

Thursday 03.00 BST: Tomahawks, jets and submarines stand ready to punish Syria after Trump promised Russia that missiles are ‘coming’. The US navy stands ready to deploy jets and submarines too, should the Americans make good on the president’s threat, according to CNN.

Wednesday 23:00 BST: UK prime minister Theresa May announces cabinet meeting after declaring that the use of chemical weapons cannot go unpunished. The Prime Minister summoned ministers back to London to seek their support for joining an American-led attack on the Assad regime within days. She said all indications suggested that Bashar Assad’s forces were responsible for Saturday’s atrocity near Damascus. 

Wednesday 06:57 BST: US President Donald Trump Tweets: ‘Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!’  

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