Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Press statement by H.E. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, on the use of chemical weapons in Syria

As you remember, on 19 March the Syrian Government informed the United Nations of the launch of a gas-laden projectile by anti-government forces near Khan al-Assal in Aleppo governorate. The Syrian Government requested the UN Secretary-General that an impartial and independent UN investigation into this incident be carried out.

Unfortunately, the Secretary-General's initial intention to conduct a swift investigation did not materialize.

Under such circumstances the Syrian Government requested Russian experts to clarify the Khan al-Assal case.

I have just transmitted to the Secretary-General the results of the analysis of on-site samples taken by Russian experts in Khan al-Assal. I would like to underscore that, unlike other reports provided to the Secretary-General, our samples were taken at the projectile impact point by Russian experts in person. They were not transmitted to us through third parties.

The samples were analyzed at a Russian laboratory certified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

It was established that on March 19 the rebels launched an unguided "Basha'ir-3" projectile towards Khan al-Assal controlled by the Government forces. As you know, 26 people were killed (16 of them were military personnel), 86 injured and intoxicated to different levels.

The results of the analysis clearly indicate that the ordnance used in Khan al-Assal was not industrially manufactured and was filled with sarin. The sarin technical specifications prove that it was not industrially manufactured either. The absence of chemical stabilizers in the samples of the detected toxic agents indicates their relatively recent production. The projectile involved is not a standard one for chemical use. Hexogen utilised as an opening charge is not used in standard ammunitions.

Therefore, there is every reason to believe that it was the armed opposition fighters who used chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal.

According to the information at our disposal, the production of "Basha'ir-3" unguided projectiles was started in February 2013 by the so-called "Basha'ir al-Nasr" brigade affiliated with the Free Syrian Army.

In conclusion, I would like to stress that we welcome the decision by the Syrian Government to invite the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Kane, and the head of the United Nations investigation team, professor Sellstrom, to visit Syria. We believe that this initiative creates a new positive momentum in order to launch an investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria. All modalities of such investigation should be defined in direct discussions between the Syrian Government and the United Nations Secretariat.