Russia needs convincing proof, not rumors, from UN experts that chemical weapons were used in Syria, said the Russian president in an interview with First Channel and AP. It is up to the UN Security Council to decide on the next course of action, he said.
Speaking to journalists from Russia’s state Channel 1 television and Associated Press, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a number of decisive statements regarding the supposed use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, which evoked a threat of a US-led strike on Syria.
“We believe that at the very least we should wait for the results of the UN inspection commission in Syria,” Putin said, adding that so far there is no information about what chemical agent exactly was used in the attack in Damascus’ suburbs and who did it.
“I’ve already said I find it absolutely ridiculous that
[Syrian] government’s armed forces, which today are actually on
an offense mission and in some regions have already encircled the
so-called rebels and are finishing them off, that the Syrian army
has used prohibited chemical weapons,” Putin said.
“They know all too well that this could become a cause for sanctions and even for a military operation against them. That’s stupid and illogical.”
“We proceed from the assumption that if anyone has information
that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian regular army, then
such proof must be presented to the UN Security Council and the
UN inspectors,” Putin said, stressing that the proof must be
“convincing” and not based on “rumors” or any sort
of “eavesdropped intelligence data,” conversations etc.
“Even in the US there are experts who question the reliability of the facts presented by the administration. These experts do not exclude the possibility that the Syrian opposition has conducted a pre-planned provocation in order to give their sponsors a reason for military intervention,” he acknowledged.
Putin later leveled criticism at US Secretary of State John Kerry as he spoke to human rights activists on Wednesday, saying Kerry “lied” by claiming there was no Al-Qaeda militants fighting in Syria and that the military strike against President Assad will not boost the terrorist network’s presence in the region.
“They lie, plainly. I watched the Congressional debate. A congressman asked Mr. Kerry: “Is there any Al-Qaeda [in Syria]? There are reports they have been growing stronger.” He [Kerry] replied: “No. I say with all responsibility: there is no [Al-Qaeda] there,” Putin explained.
The Russian President then said the Al-Nusra Front terrorist organization, which pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, has been at the forefront of the rebel groups fighting Assad’s forces, and that the US is well aware of that.
“Well, he [Kerry] lies. And he knows that he lies. This is sad,” Putin remarked.
Speaking of Kerry’s confidence in that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons, Putin recalled former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s rhetoric on the eve of American invasion in Iraq.
Powell even brandished some test tube with a white powder as he
attempted to persuade the international community that Iraq has
chemical weapons, Putin said, stressing that it later turned out
that “all these arguments did not hold water.”
Putin says he “does not exclude” that Russia may agree with a military operation if it is proved that the Syrian government is behind the attack, however he emphasized that in accordance with international law a decision of the UN Security Council is needed for that.
“All other reasons and means that excuse using military force against an independent sovereign state are unacceptable and cannot be classified otherwise but as an aggression,” Putin noted.
“We would be convinced by a detailed investigation and direct evidence of who exactly used chemical weapons and what substances were used. Then we’ll be ready to take decisive and serious action,” said the president.
Answering a question about video records of dead children that allegedly died in the chemical attack in Damascus, Vladimir Putin called the material with dead children “horrible”.
“The questions are what exactly was done and who is to blame. This video does not answer these questions,” Putin said, sharing an opinion that this video is a compilation made by the militants who – even the US acknowledges – have links with Al-Qaeda and are notorious for extreme atrocities.
Putin recommended to pay attention to the fact that in the video
with dead children there are no parents, children’s relatives or
even medical personnel, while people who do appear in the video
remain unidentified. However terrible the picture could be, it
cannot be proof of anybody’s guilt, Putin said, and called for
investigation of the incident.
Russia is fulfilling arms contracts with Syria “because we believe that we are working with the legitimate government and we are violating neither international law, nor our obligations,” assured Putin, stressing that the UN had imposed no sanctions on the export of weapons to Syria.
He confirmed that Moscow has a signed contract with Damascus to deliver S-300 air defense missile complexes to Syria. The S-300 system is kind of outdated, said Putin, “though they might be a little better than Patriot missiles.”
Russia already has deployed S-400 and forthcoming S-500 systems, “[and] these are all certainly very efficient weapons,” Putin noted.
“We have a contract to supply S300 missiles, and we’ve already supplied some parts, but not all of it, because we decided to suspend the supplies for a while. But if we see international law being violated, we will reconsider our future actions, including supplies of such sensitive weapons to certain regions of the world,” he promised.