Moscow to Conduct Its Own Probe into Syria Chemical Attacks
(RIA Novosti – MOSCOW, October 1, 2013) Russia announced Tuesday it will carry out its own investigation into chemical weapons attacks in Syria as an international disarmament inspection team, reportedly comprising one Russian, arrived in the Middle Eastern nation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow wanted to establish who was behind the August poison attack and criticized Western governments for pinning the blame on Syrian President Bashar Assad before the arrival of UN inspectors in Syria.
“That behavior is wrong. It is a violation of the agreements that were reached” at the G8 Summit in June, Lavrov said.
In an effort to forestall the possibility of a US-led military strike against Syria, Russia last month obtained assurances from Damascus that it would relinquish its chemical weapons arsenal. The UN Security Council voted unanimously Friday to pass a resolution on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.
An advance party of disarmament specialists from the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrived in Syria on Tuesday to initiate the decommissioning procedure.
Earlier this week, a team of international inspectors investigating alleged chemical attack sites ended its mission in Syria.
Professor Ake Sellstrom, who headed the UN team, told RIA Novosti on Saturday the mission could not be extended, but that the possibility of a new inspection “will be considered.”
The UN had previously said the team would inspect seven possible sites of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, but Sellstrom said his team did not have enough time to visit them all.
UN investigators issued a report last month confirming the use of sarin gas in attack in August, but did not specify who might be responsible for the attack.
US President Barack Obama’s administration accuses Assad’s regime being behind the August 21 attack outside Damascus that Washington says left more than 1,400 dead.
President Vladimir Putin has said the Russian government has evidence showing the attack was likely carried out by Syrian rebels seeking to provoke outside military intervention against government forces. No specific evidence to support this claim has been made public.