Russia claims to have received evidence from the Syrian regime implicating rebels in a deadly poison gas attack, as divisions re-emerged between Moscow and the West after a landmark deal to eliminate Syria\’s chemical weapons.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said Wednesday that Syria has provided new evidence revealing that rebels were the ones who carried out the deadly attack last month outside Damascus.
His remarks came a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also questioned the U.N. report, saying there are "serious grounds to believe" the incident was a provocation carried out by the rebel side.
Asked about the Russian criticisms, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky called the findings in the report "indisputable." He said "they speak for themselves and this was a thoroughly objective report on that specific incident."
Western countries and human rights groups said the findings, presented earlier this week, implicated the Syrian regime in using sarin for that attack. They cited the report\’s detailed annexes on the types of weapons used, their trajectories and the amount of gas they carried.
Despite their disagreement on the report, Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States have agreed to work toward a United Nations resolution governing the removal of Syria\’s chemical arsenal.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said the regime\’s evidence would be presented to the UN.
"There is a lot of (data) regarding the incidents that occurred in August in Ghouta near Damascus. We will be reviewing all of it in the Security Council."
The UN report, released on Monday, did not ascribe blame but detailed munitions and rockets used in the August 21 attack, their likely point of origin and their capacity. One missile used could hold 56 litres of sarin gas. As little as 0.5mg of sarin can kill an adult.
The US holds Assad responsible for the August 21 attack, which it says killed 1,429 people. The regime denies responsibility and its ally Russia maintains that there is no evidence implicating Assad.
The UN later said its conclusions were beyond questioning. "The findings in that report are indisputable," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said. "They speak for themselves and this was a thoroughly objective report on that specific incident."
The Russia-US agreement is aimed at warding off the threat of US-led military action as retribution for the chemical attack.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and the UN refugee agency says about one third of Syria\’s pre-war population of 20.8 million have fled their homes, either to other countries or safer areas within Syria.