Russia urges ‘full-scale’ probe into Syria chemical attack
Only a comprehensive investigation into circumstances that led to the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib province of Syria will bring out the truth about those behind the attack, Russia has said.
The attack on the rebel-held Syrian town on April 4, 2017 killed 87 persons and the deadly sarin gas is widely believed to have been used.
Syrian president Basher al-Assad has been accused of instigating the attack, although he has strongly denied the allegation.
And in a press release dated May 10, 2017 following the report of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on the attack, Russia, whose forces are also helping the Syrian government push back terror group Islamic State which has seized large parts of the war-torn country, said there was the “probability” that sarin as a chemical weapon was used in the incident. However, niggling questions require answers to establish the truth behind the entire attack in order to clear the perception in some quarters that the attack was staged.
“We admit the probability of sarin used in Khan Shaykhun. The question is, who did it and how was the poisonous substance delivered there. There may be several versions. Due to the information collected, we tend to believe that the terrorists who control this area blew up the hand-made charge with sarin, which affected civilians. In this case, in order to excite the public mind the “white helmets” quickly posted materials on the internet, although they could capture the real victims of the crime. However, due to the lack of understanding of the implications of the use of sarin, they made some crucial mistakes that gave a reason to talk about staging,” it stated.
The release further stated: “The final answer about what really happened in Khan Shaykhun can only be provided by a full investigation in full compliance with the verification provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the mandate of the FFM [Fact-Finding Mission], which some countries continue to struggle to prevent.”
Below is the full statement:
NEWS FROM RUSSIA
NEWS BULLETIN OF THE EMBASSY OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
PRELIMINARY REPORT OF THE OPCW FACT-FINDING MISSION (FFM) ON THE CHEMICAL INCIDENT IN THE AREA OF KHAN SHAYKHUN (IDLIB PROVINCE, SYRIA)
There is the lack of adequate reaction from the part of the OPCW on the supposed use of sarin gas in Khan Shaykhun. The work of the FFM is non-transparent, but it is clear that the Mission continues to work as usual – remotely – without paying a visit to the site of the alleged incident, through an analysis of the materials from the Internet concocted to a large extent by the radical Syrian opposition, including the so called “white helmets”.
It is known that the biomedical samples were selected from the individuals who suffered and died from the toxic substance, which according to the analysis in four certified laboratories of the OPCW recognized sarin or something similar. However, samples were not picked directly at the scene of the incident, but, apparently, in Turkey, where the victims and the dead were taken. Thus, the basic principle of the investigation – to ensure full safety of samples on the way from the place of incidents to the laboratory (“chain of custody”) – was not complied with. Strictly speaking, there is no evidence that people have suffered in Khan Shaykhun other than anywhere else. The same applies to the samples of the environment. They were transferred to the staff of the FFM by unidentified “eyewitnesses”. This is another violation of the “chain of custody” rule. Besides, the surveys of the “witnesses” of the events in Khan Shaykhun by the FFM staff cause deep doubts and there is no confidence that they really lived in Khan Shaykhun.
All this gives the grounds to say that the FFM is creating an appearance of investigation and not working as it should be, given the significance and the resonance nature of the incident and its consequences.
Another fundamental flaw is the fact that the composition of the FFM, according to our data, is completely dominated by the countries extremely hostile to Damascus which contradicts the well-established international practice.
In this connection, it should be noted that according to the UN Charter, for recruitment to the Secretariat “due regard shall be paid to the importance of recruiting the staff on as wide a geographical basis as possible”. This basic principle of activities of international structures is completely ignored in the activities of the FFM. Practically, there is discrimination against Asian, African and Latin American countries.
If the FFM continues to work in its already usual manner and presents a verdict against Damascus on this basis, we are sure not to be able to adopt it.
It should be positively noted that, while communicating with the press on April 28, 2017, the Director-General of the OPCW was talking about their readiness to send experts of the Organization to Khan Shaykhun, but said, that preparation would require more time. Hopefully, this process will not be delayed.
The government of the Syrian Arab Republic is ready to provide a totally safe environment for the FFM staff to visit the Shayrat Airbase recently attacked by the US missile strike. We fully support this idea and, moreover, insist on its implementation. We consider completely inconsistent and cynical the opinion of many members of the executive board of the OPCW that the Airbase is not related to the incident in Khan Shaykhun.
We admit the probability of sarin used in Khan Shaykhun. The question is, who did it and how the poisonous substance was delivered there. There may be several versions. Due to the information collected, we tend to believe that the terrorists who control this area blew up the hand-made charge with sarin, which affected civilians. In this case, in order to excite the public mind the “white helmets” quickly posted materials on the internet, although they could capture the real victims of the crime. However, due to the lack of understanding of the implications of the use of sarin, they made some crucial mistakes that gave a reason to talk about staging.
Unlike other countries which instantly “fixed” Damascus guilty, we do not insist on the above-mentioned version. We only believe that it should be taken into account.
The final answer about what really happened in Khan Shaykhun, can only be provided by a full investigation in full compliance with the verification provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the mandate of the FFM, which some countries continue to struggle to prevent.