Churkin: Syrian Rebels Responsible for Aleppo Gas Attack
July 11, 2013 • 10:01AM

On July 9, Vitaly Churkin, Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations, delivered an 80-page report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon that, he said afterwards, reports the conclusion of Russian experts that Syrian rebels were responsible for the March 19, 2013, sarin gas attack in the Aleppo suburb of Khan al-Assal that killed 26 people and injured 86 others. Churkin said that samples taken from the impact site were examined at a Russian laboratory certified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and that the Russian experts personally collected the samples, rather than having them handed to them by third parties, as was the case for the samples analyzed by the U.S., Britain, and France.

Vitaly Churkin. Photo: Presidential Press & Information Office.

"The results of the analysis clearly indicate that the ordnance used in Khan al-Assal was not industrially manufactured and was filled with sarin," Churkin said. "The sarin technical specifications prove that it was not industrially manufactured either. The absence of chemical stabilizers in the samples of detected toxic agents indicate their relatively recent production." Furthermore, Churkin added, neither the shell nor the opening explosive charge used in it were standard munitions for chemical weapons use. "Therefore, there is every reason to believe that it was the armed opposition fighters who used the chemical weapon in Khan al-Assal," he said. Churkin added that "According to 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."

Pentagon spokesman George Little would not comment directly on the Russian report when asked about it on Wednesday, during a briefing with reporters, but he did indicate that President Obama's red line only applies to the Assad regime. "What we are concerned about is the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons over time on any number of occasions," he said. "The president has spoken directly to this and has said that that is totally unacceptable and crosses a red line."

Meanwhile, the UN investigation, originally requested by Assad in the first place, remains hung up over UN (meaning US, UK and French) demands for the investigation team to have broad access to the country, Iraq-style, rather than focusing on the specific attacks that the Syrian government has asked to be investigated.