BEIRUT — The Russian military says that an alleged chemical attack in Syria was staged and directed by Britain.

Volunteer first responders and activists claimed a chemical attack by the Syrian government killed over 40 people in the town of Douma, which drew international outrage and prompted Washington and its allies to consider a military response. Moscow warned against any strikes and threatened to retaliate.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, released statements by medics from Douma’s hospital who said a group of people toting video cameras entered the hospital, shouting that its patients were struck with chemical weapons and causing panic. The medics said none of the patients were hurt by chemicals.

Konashenkov said Friday that Britain was “directly involved in the provocation,” but didn’t elaborate or provide evidence.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the Middle East is in such “peril” today that it has become a threat to international peace and security — and Syria “represents the most serious threat.”

The U.N. chief told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council Friday called by Russia that the highly volatile situation risks “escalation, fragmentation and division as far as the eye can see with profound regional and global ramifications.”

Guterres said “the Cold War is back — with a vengeance but with a difference,” because safeguards that managed the risk of escalation in the past “no longer seem to be present.”

He cited the Palestinian-Israeli divide, the Sunni-Shiite divide “evident from the Gulf to the Mediterranean,” and other divisive factors reflected in a multiplicity of conflicts.

But Guterres said Syria today is the most serious, and “there is no military solution to the conflict.”