Russia has delivered a 100-page report to the United Nations that claims Syrian rebels are responsible for a sarin gas attack in March 2013 — an overlooked incident, it says, in the wake the alleged sarin attack in August that the United States and other nations say the Syrian government is behind, McClatchy news reports.
According to a statement posted to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s site late Wednesday, the March 19, incident in Khan al Asal, a town outside the city of Aleppo, was the reason U.N. investigators were in Syria when the Aug. 21 attack took place.
“Unfortunately, that investigation still essentially has not begun,” the statement said.
In addition, the Russian report on the March attack — in which 26 people died and 86 were injured — says it contains scientific detail that’s lacking in the much-shorter intelligence summaries the United States, Britain, and France delivered as evidence that the Syrian government launched chemical weapons against Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21.
The Russian report, apparently delivered to the U.N. in July but not released, asserts that each of the three nations’ summaries regarding the August attack relies primarily on circumstantial evidence to make its case, and details in each report differ, most notably the number of people who died.
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Russia said its investigation of the March 19 incident was conducted under strict protocols established by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international agency that governs adherence to treaties prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. It said samples that Russian technicians had collected had been sent to OPCW-certified laboratories in Europe.
The Russian statement warned the United States and its allies not to conduct a military strike against Syria until the United Nations had completed a similarly detailed scientific study into the Aug. 21 attack. It warned that what it called the current “hysteria” about a possible military strike in the West was similar to the false claims and poor intelligence that preceded the United States invasion of Iraq.
“The Russian report is specific,” the ministry statement said. “It is a scientific and technical document.”
There was no immediate comment from the United States. Independent chemical weapons experts contacted by McClatchy said they had not had time to read the Russian document, which was released as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was speaking to the House Foreign Affairs Committee to solidify the Obama administration’s case for a retaliatory strike on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime as punishment for the attack.
A U.N. team spent four days investigating the Aug. 21 incident. The samples it collected from the site and alleged victims of the attack are under examination by European labs. U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon has urged the U.S. to delay strikes until after the results of that investigation are released. The United States has already said it has evidence showing there is no doubt the Syrian government was behind the attack.
Richard Guthrie, formerly project leader of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told McClatchy that the rockets that delivered the sarin in the March 19 incident were not likely to have come from Syrian military stocks because of the use of RDX, an explosive that is also known as hexogen and T4.
“Militaries don’t tend to use it because it’s too expensive,” he said.
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