18 Sept 2013
Syria has handed Russia new materials which it claims implicate rebels in a chemical attack in Damascus, says a Russian minister.
“The corresponding materials were handed to the Russian side,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
“We were told that they were evidence that the rebels are implicated in the chemical attack.”
Speaking to Russia’s state news agency RIA, Mr Ryabkov also said his country had serious reservations about the United Nations report into the August 21 attack.
“We are disappointed, to put it mildly, about the approach taken by the UN secretariat and the UN inspectors, who prepared the report selectively and incompletely.
“Without receiving a full picture of what is happening here, it is impossible to call the nature of the conclusions reached by the UN experts … anything but politicised, preconceived and one-sided,” he said.
Mr Ryabkov was talking after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Damascus.
The UN report into the attack, which was published earlier this week, said chemical weapons had been used on a “relatively large scale”.
It did not lay any blame for the atrocity, but the US, France and the UK all believe that it shows the Syrian regime was responsible.
Russia’s comments look like complicating the trio’s efforts for a UN Security Council resolution to support the recently-brokered plan to destroy Syria’s chemical stockpile.
The Geneva agreement set out a plan to destroy the weapons by mid-2014.
Speaking on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also expressed doubts over the inspectors’ report.
He said the investigation was incomplete without examination of evidence from other sources and that suspicions of other chemical attacks should also be investigated.
A Free Syrian Army fighter, dressed in civilian clothes with a mortar launcher behind him, pets a dog in the al-Aseela neighborhood of Aleppo. (Reuters)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the report gave “clear and convincing evidence” that chemical weapons were used on August 21.
He also described the incident as a “war crime”.
Rockets tested at the attack site in Damascus were found to contain sarin, while the area in which they landed was contaminated with the deadly gas.
Blood and urine samples taken from patients injured in the attack tested positive for the nerve agent, while survivors said they had experienced symptoms including loss of consciousness, shortness of breath and blurred vision, all of which are consistent with intoxication.
Photographs taken by the inspectors also appeared to show possible Cyrillic, or Russian, engravings on one of the rocket casings.
The US believes more than 1,400 people were killed in the attack but some other estimates are lower. The Syrian regime maintains that rebel forces were to blame.
Western powers now want a UN resolution on the Syria disarmament plan to be under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which can potentially authorise the use of force.
However, Russia, a close ally of Syria’s, has strongly opposed the threat of air strikes against the Assad regime.
- Syria Hands Russia Proof on Rebels’ Use of Chemical Weapons (acenewsservices.com)
- Russia Still Believes Syria Chemical Attack Was ‘Provocation’ (novinite.com)
- Syria gives Russia ‘new evidence’ rebels behind chem attack (dailystar.com.lb)