As I noted shortly after the Syrian gas attack, the Russians were flailing about trying to find an explanation for what happened. They’ve tried out at least three explanations. At first, they claimed it didn’t happen. And then they claimed that a bomb hit a rebel munitions depot and released sarin the rebels were hoarding. They seem to have settled on option three, that long time Ron Paul favorite, the “false flag” attack as their main line of defense:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a chemical-weapons attack in Syria that provoked U.S. missile strikes on the Middle Eastern country may have been orchestrated.

“There’s growing evidence that this was staged,” Lavrov said at a Moscow news conference with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts on Friday. Publications including in the U.S. and the U.K. have highlighted “many inconsistencies” in the version of events in Syria’s Idlib province that was used to justify the American airstrikes, he said.

Russia, Iran and Syria want an independent investigation and those opposed to the call “don’t have a clear conscience,” Lavrov said. Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Wednesday that demanded the Syrian government cooperate with an inquiry into the suspected sarin-gas attack that killed dozens of people.

That it was going this way was hinted at on Tuesday during a press conference Putin held with the Italian president.

And now the Moscow echo chamber is picking it up.

Unfortunately, no one sent Assad the memo

And the Russians are ramping up their Twitter army. I was just going through a Twitter search for “syria+gas+fake” and was astounded by the number of accounts with double-digit followers/follows who were spouting the Kremlin line. Unfortunately, the Russians don’t seem to be a well-oiled machine. Before the “false flag” story became the standard, the Russians were behind the #SyriaHoax that was pushing the idea that the attack didn’t happen:

Following the chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians on Tuesday, Al-Masdar News, a pro-Assad website based in Beirut, published claims that “something is not adding up in [the] Idlib chemical weapons attack.” Its author cited “holes” in the accounts provided by the “Al-Qaeda affiliated” White Helmets leading to the conclusion that “this is another false chemical attack allegation made against the government.”

That hoax story was promoted by a network of Russian social media accounts and ultimately picked up by popular alt-right personalities in the United States, including Mike Cernovich, one of the leading voices in the debunked ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory. Cernovich popularized its new hashtag — #SyriaHoax — and sent it soaring through cyberspace. According to Trends24, within hours of the retaliatory missile strike President Donald Trump launched on Thursday night, #SyriaHoax was the No. 1 trending Twitter topic in the United States.

This is why I never became a liar. It takes too much work and attention to detail to keep up with the lies. I’m just too lazy.

Oddly enough, this bizarre story actually makes a strong case for the Russian government being in the dark on Assad’s plans (or the plans of part of his regime) to use chemical weapons. If the Russians had been complicit in any significant way they would have anticipated the public relations fallout and they would have had a plausible and consistent story in place.