Putin warns against blaming Assad for Syria gas attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's news conference following their talks at Konstantin palace in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, April 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, Pool)

Russian President Vladimir Putin is warning against apportioning blame for a chemical weapons attack in Syria until an investigation has been carried out.

In a phone call with Israel's prime minister on Thursday, Putin "underlined that it's unacceptable to make unfounded accusations against anyone until a thorough and unbiased international investigation," according to the Kremlin.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, had earlier warned the West against rushing to blame Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack on Khan Sheikhoun. He said the West lacks objective evidence against Assad, adding that materials presented by local activists can't serve as a proof.

Russia has said the toxic gas was released when Syrian airstrikes hit a rebel arsenal containing chemical weapons. U.S. and other Western officials have blamed the attack on Syrian government forces.

The U.N. children's agency says at least 27 children were among the more than 80 people killed in the suspected chemical attack in northern Syria.

UNICEF says another 546 people, including many children, were wounded in Tuesday's attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, and that casualty figures are expected to rise.

UNICEF Regional Director Geert Cappelaere said Thursday that "the killing of children in Syria cannot be allowed to continue," and called on all parties to the conflict to "immediately put an end to this horror."

The U.N. aid agency said it is supporting three mobile clinics and four hospitals in northern Syria.

Turkey says initial tests of samples from victims indicate they were exposed to sarin gas, a highly toxic nerve agent.

The Turkish Health Ministry said Thursday that "according to the results of the first analysis, there were findings suggesting that the patients were exposed to chemical substance (Sarin)," without elaborating.

The Turkish Health Ministry said the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would also test the samples.

The Trump administration and other Western officials have blamed the chemical attack on Syrian government forces, allegations denied by Damascus.

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