VALDAI, Novgorod region (Itar-Tass) - Russia can send experts on chemical weapons to Syria and the Russian Armed Forces can take part in the transportation of Syrian chemical weapons and their destruction, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday on the sidelines of the Valdai International Discussion Club.
Russia has enterprises that could recycle or dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons, Sergei Shoigu added.
“We have enterprises to dispose such weapons, but there is a gap between “we are ready” and “we can,”” he said, when asked whether Russia could offer its services to dispose Syria’s chemical weapons. He did not give a straight answer, noting only that Russia would have its say only as a member of an international coalition, “should it be decided this way.”
“I’d rather not discuss the Spetsnaz /special assignment troops - Itar-Tass/ in this context but we could send experts there /to Syria/ so that they would prepare an operation to place the Syrian chemical weaponry under international control,” he said.
“From the very beginning, President Putin proposed to take Syrian chemical weapons under international control,” Shoigu recalled.
“Further decisions will be made at the international level, namely, whether to destroy /the weapons/ on the spot or to take them under control or to place them under guard,” he said. “In any case, a lot of difficult work is ahead of us and we’re standing just at the beginning of the road.”
“If our place in the international system of control is determined eventually - be it transportation or destruction /of the arsenal/ - then Russia and its Armed Forces will naturally be ready to take part in it,” Shoigu said.
He also said that Russia has a plan for evacuating 7,000 fellow-countrymen from Syria. “When someone is brandishing the tools of all sorts - and far from harmless tools - we can’t forget the fact there are about 7,000 Russians in Syria and we quite naturally have an instruction from our President to draft evacuation plans,” Shoigu said.
“We’ve scrutinized all the routes and everything’s ready to carry out an operation of this kind, may the Lord spare us from this trouble,” he said, adding that the Russian Defense Ministry also has the manpower appropriate for the operation.
Shoigu said that preparations in this vein were absolutely necessary in the context of current developments.
“It’d no good to wait and see until something happens and to start taking whatever actions only after that,” he said. “It would run counter to the spirit of the time and the dimension of threats.”