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Russia: Syria has ‘material evidence’ that rebels used chemical weapons

Russian officials claim that the Syrian government has passed on new evidence that rebels, not the regime, were responsible for a chemical weapons attack last month.

Syria’s government has provided “material evidence” that rebels have used chemical weapons in their battle to overthrow it, a senior Russian diplomat said Tuesday.

Speaking after a meeting with Syrian officials in Damascus Tuesday night, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov slammed the United Nations report that detailed the use of sarin gas in an attack last month as biased and incomplete.

“Just now we were given evidence,” Ryabkov told state-run Russia Today, without giving further details. “We need to analyze it.”

The UN’s report deliberately did not draw conclusions as to who was responsible for the Aug. 21 attack on Ghouta, eastern Damascus, though the US, UK and France have said that the forensic and ballistic evidence it collates shows that only President Bashar al-Assad’s forcescould have carried it out.

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“We are unhappy about this report,” Ryabkov told RT, “we think that report was distorted, it was one-sided, the basis of information upon which it is built is not sufficient, and in any case we would need to learn and know more on what happened beyond and above that incident of August 21.” 

Without the “full picture,” Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted him as saying, “we cannot but call the nature of conclusions drawn by UN experts… as politicized, biased and unilateral.”

More from GlobalPost: Russia remains skeptical of UN report on Syria

It is Moscow’s starkest rebuttal yet of the UN investigation, which the US and its allies had hoped would provide the basis for the UN Security Council to agree on measures to halt the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

On Monday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov once more refuted the claim that Assad was behind the Ghouta attack, insisting that “we have the most serious grounds to believe this was a provocation [by rebels].”

He continued: “And some of our partners have unequivocally stated that only the regime could have used chemical weapons, but the truth must be established.”

Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, also suggested that the international inspectors hadn’t done their job properly. He called for the UN team to return immediately to Syria to investigate other allegations of chemical weapons attacks, RIA Novosti reported Wednesday. 

“We hope that the full implementation of the mandate of [the inspectors’] mission will give an objective picture of the events in Syria,” Churkin said.

Envoys from Russia, China, France, the US and the UK — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — met in New York on Tuesday to discuss a proposed UN resolution that will codify the promise Russia secured from Syria to surrender its chemical arsenal. 

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The Council appears no closer to agreeing on the wording, according to the BBC, with France, the UK and US pushing for military intervention if Assad fails to comply and Russia resisting the inclusion of any threat of consequences.