Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, told the UN General Assembly Dec. 13, in no uncertain terms, that Syrian opposition groups were responsible for the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on the Ghouta suburb of Damascus, and the purpose of it was to trigger a Western military intervention. “As is known, the Opposition has always wished to see external armed intervention. It is common knowledge that World War II began with a provocation. A provocation triggered the U.S. war in Vietnam and NATOs bombardments of Serbia. In this (Syrian) case, there was a provocation involved, too, but a big war was prevented with the well-known initiatives,” Churkin told the closed door meeting, according to a transcript of his statement circulated by Russia’s UN Embassy.
According to ITAR-Tass, Churkin reminded the other council members that UN experts were in Damascus to investigate allegations of earlier chemical attacks, such as the March 2013 incident in the Khan al-Assal suburb of Aleppo. Therefore, it would have been “utterly illogical” for the Syrian government to have carried out the attack, especially after having already been warned that such an attack would trigger a military intervention.
Churkin also pointed out that if Syrian government forces had been responsible for the attack, preparations would have been required beforehand, preparations that are detectable using intelligence methods. The toxic chemicals used in chemical munitions need to be mixed just before being deployed as such weapons cannot be stored for long periods of time without breaking down–but U.S. intelligence capabilities, such as those revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, detected no such preparations. This point was also made by veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, in an article published a week ago in the London Review of Books.
Churkin also pointed to evidence gathered by a Russian investigation into the Khan al Assal incident, as well as the examination of a chemical artillery shell found in Ghouta by a team of researchers from MIT to conclude that the munitions used in those attacks were of types not used by the Syrian army. The shell could have been manufactured in a machine shop and its range was not more than 2 kilometers, not the 10 kilometers claimed by the U.S.
Churkin concluded by calling for a political settlement to end the war on Syria and for the destruction of all chemical weapons in the country.