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Russia’s Defense Ministry: OPCW missions in Syria violate Chemical Weapons Convention

The OPCW’s missions in Syria violate the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention, Major-General Igor Kirillov, Chief of the Russian Armed Forces’ Radiological, Chemical and Biological Defense Troops, said on Friday.

"The remote nature of investigations as well as the collection, analysis and use of the documents obtained without specialists’ trips to the alleged sites of chemical weapons use, is in direct contradiction to the Convention’s provisions," Kirillov told reporters at a joint press briefing of the Russian Foreign Ministry and Russia’s Defense Ministry.

He noted that the West seeks to grant the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) the right to issue guilty verdicts against certain countries and their leaders.

"The United States, the UK, France and their allies are once again trying to mislead the global community and seek confrontation," he said. "Taking advantage of staged chemical weapons attacks, they accuse Syria of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention and Russia of complicity in that. At the same time, a campaign has been launched to turn the OPCW into a politicized institution with the right to issue guilty verdicts against certain countries and their leaders," Kirillov said.

He added that the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, which conducts its investigations relying on the US and its allies, plays an unsavory role.

Douma incident

Russia is concerned that the western investigation into the April chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Douma will result in groundless accusations against Damascus, Kirillov said.

He pointed out that at the West’s behest, the White Helmets had acted in accordance with a scenario tested in Khan Shaykhun in 2017, staging a chemical weapons attack in Douma on April 7, 2018. Russian experts assessing information about the incident came to the conclusion that it had been orchestrated, the Russian general said.

"Clearly, preparations are being made for presenting another accusatory report that would contain no evidence," Kirillov noted.

A number of non-government organizations, including the White Helmets, alleged that a chemical weapons attack had taken place in Eastern Ghouta’s town of Douma on April 7. The Russian Foreign Ministry slammed this allegation as a bogus story, while Russia’s Defense Ministry pointed out that the White Helmets were known for spreading fabricated news. On April 9, officers from the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the opposing sides in Syria visited Douma but did not find any traces of chemical weapons.

On April 25, Moscow and Damascus held a briefing at the OPCW headquarters, which particularly involved 17 witnesses to the events that had occurred in Douma on April 7. They confirmed that there had been no chemical weapons attack while the video released by the White Helmets had been staged.

Other shortcomings in OPCW work

Laboratories belonging to the OPCW have presented contradictory information concerning an alleged chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Saraqib in February 2018, as one group of experts found chorine traces in samples, while the other did not, Kirillov said.

"One of the laboratories found chlorine-organic compounds in 14 samples, while the other did not any traces at all," he said. "A thing to note is that a number of samples had traces of an explosive substance though according to eye witnesses, there were no explosions of tanks allegedly containing chlorine," the Russian general added.

The OPCW is reluctant to send experts to the liberated areas of Syria in order to examine militant chemical agent stockpiles, Kirillov said.

"More than 40 tonnes of chemical agents have been discovered in areas liberated from terrorists," he said. "Syrian authorities have many times requested that the OPCW send experts to these areas but the organization either refused to do that citing the lack of security or said that chlorine, in particular, could have been used to disinfect swimming pools," the Russian general said.

At the same time, in Kirillov’s words, the equipment found at a militant chemical facility in Douma was made in EU member states and North American countries. A mined chemical laboratory and a chemical warehouse were discovered on April 17, 2018. "OPCW experts were provided with an opportunity to visit both of the facilities but for obvious reasons they did not show due interest," the general noted.

"We would like to point out that some equipment and treating agents were made in EU member states and North American countries," he said, adding that the equipment had been used for producing a high-quality explosive substance. Besides, thiodiglycol and triethanolamine used for manufacturing sulfur mustard gas and nitrogen-mustard gas were also found in the laboratory, as well as the hexamine stabilizer and a tank containing chlorine, similar to the one that militants used while preparing to stage a chemical weapons attack.

The general also said that biomedical samples in Syria’s Al Lataminah were collected with the same violations as in the Skripals case.

"It should be emphasized that the procedure for selecting biomedical samples has been violated once again, the way it was in the Skripals’ case. We all remember that all media outlets reports that the mission, which came to Salisbury and which selected the samples, did it personally. Paragraph 19 of a report (on Al Lataminah - TASS) states that blood sampling was carried out by the hospital’s staff under the supervision of a medical expert group using OPCW equipment," he said.

Russia's position

Russia is trying to help the OPCW to overcome systemic failures and flaws and cares about the organization’s reputation, according to Kirillov.

Russia always seeks to use specific facts and arguments whereas "Western opponents usually avoid a substantive talk and reply with slogans," accusing Russia of undermining the OPCW’s prestige and reputation, the general told a joint news briefing of Russia’s Foreign and Defense Ministries.

"The Russian Federation, on the contrary, cares about the OPCW’s reputation and seeks to help this organization overcome systemic failures and drawbacks and prevent a politicized and biased approach in its work," the general said.

Russia holds a clear-cut and unambiguous position: the use of chemical weapons in the world is inadmissible and those guilty of their use must be held liable, Kirillov stated.

"Russia has fulfilled all its obligations and destroyed all its chemical weapons," the general said.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 22Jun18]

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