MOSCOW, July 6. /TASS/. The report by the Fact Finding Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) would have been much more comprehensive, if experts had visited Shayrat airbase, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department, Mikhail Ulyanov, said at a briefing for foreign diplomats on the Syrian "chemical dossier." The text of his speech was posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website on Thursday.
"Firstly, the fundamental principle of ensuring the preservation of physical evidence [during the investigation - TASS] has not been observed," Ulyanov said. "Biomedical and environmental samples were obtained by the OPCW Fact Finding Mission on the territory of another country and from other people rather than at the scene, the way it should be. That said, one cannot be certain that these samples were indeed collected in Khan Shaykhun rather than at some other place in Syria or even in some other country." According to Ulyanov, this applies to the bodies of the victims, since there is no certainty that that those were residents of Khan Shaykhun."
"Secondly, the report contains no information on how sarin was used. It just states that the OPCW mission was unable to come to a firm conclusion on this particular issue. And that’s despite the fact that this is a key aspect for establishing the truth," the diplomat said.
Ulyanov pointed to remarks by the authors of the report who said that the only purpose of the investigation was to determine whether chemical weapons were used and that everything else allegedly has nothing to do with that case. "Such an interpretation is fundamentally contrary to the mission’s mandate, which states clearly that its objective is to establish the facts related to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria," he emphasized. "This wording implies a much broader range of tasks, which, in actual fact, have been ignored in practice."
"Thirdly, the results of the investigation would have been much more complete, if OPCW experts had visited the Shayrat airbase where sarin, which was allegedly used in Khan Shaykhun, was stored," he said.
"Both the Syrian government, which pledged to ensure full safety, and we insisted on that. Unfortunately, OPCW representatives avoided this trip, even though Paragraph 12 of their mandate provides for that."
The OPCW report published on June 29 said that sarin or a similar nerve agent was sprayed in Syria’s Khan Shaykhun. As a result, nearly 100 people, including many children, were killed. The report will be handed over to the joint UN-OPCW investigative mechanism that would determine those responsible for the attack.
The incident involving the alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib province occurred on April 4. Washington accused Damascus of using chemical weapons, after which the US Navy delivered a missile strike in the small hours of April 7 on Syria's Shayrat military airfield in the province of Homs.