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Russia claims chemical attack in Syria provocation, calls for investigation

September 18, 2013, 18:02 UTC+3

Russia's ambassador to the UN emphasizes the report should be carefully studied before making decisions

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UNITED NATIONS, September 18 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin called for a thorough investigation of evidence proving that the chemical attack in Damascus’ suburb of Ghouta on August 21 was a provocation.

“There is a wide variety of evidence that a large-scale provocation was organised in Ghouta on August 21 in order to encourage foreign military intervention in the Syrian conflict,” he said, adding that this evidence “should be studied most thoroughly” and those responsible for the attack “should not remain unpunished.”

Among the evidence pointed to the provocative nature of the events on August 21, Churkin named the detention of Syrian rebels with sarin in Turkey in May, and attempts “by some citizens of Syria and Turkey to buy 10 tonnes of components for making chemical weapons.”

The Russian official also recalled that Syrian governmental troops had “discovered numerous underground factories and laboratories on the territories previously controlled by rebels, where canisters were found, with the inscriptions on them suggesting their foreign origin.” He stressed the need to investigate incidents of “chemical intoxication of the Syrian army personnel.”

The U.N. inspectors who investigated the incident in Ghouta released their report on Monday, September 16, which confirmed the use of chemical weapons. Western countries held the government of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responsible for the attack. However Syrian authorities have denied their involvement in the attack.

Churkin said that the report presented by the U.N. mission which covered the investigation of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria was filled with technical details and needed to be studied thoroughly.

“This is a serious but very technical report. It avoids categorical assessments and conclusions,” he added.

The report says that chemical weapons were used in Syria “on a relatively large scale.”

Churkin said that the report contained no clear indications as to who was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Damascus’ suburb on August 21.

“There are no solid conclusions and data” to indicate clearly that the Syrian government or the opposition is to be held accountable for the chemical weapons attacks, he said.

“In the process of further review everyone will be able to make their own conclusions and we can only hope that they will be professional, not inspired by some political pressure,” Churkin said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who is in currently in Damascus, told ITAR-TASS by telephone earlier on Wednesday, September 18, that Russian experts had started studying the information provided by the Syrian authorities regarding rebels’ participation in the August 21 attack.

Russian specialists had earlier blamed Syrian rebels for the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo’s suburb of Khan al-Assal on March 19.

Churkin said that if the United Nations had investigated that incident promptly, the tragedy in Ghouta could have been avoided.

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