Moscow does not rule out that reports alleging the use of chemical weapons in Syria, claims released as a UN investigative team began working in the country, are a “planned provocation” by media outlets to sway public opinion against the ruling regime, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday.
“Moscow considers it important to conduct an objective and professional investigation,” ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. He said later in the day that a homemade rocket “with an unidentified chemical agent” was launched Wednesday in a Damascus suburb from the Syrian rebels’ positions, similar to the one launched Monday in Khan al-Assal.
A UN team of chemical weapons investigators, headed by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, started working in Damascus on Monday. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon confirmed that the team would investigate a reported March 19 chemical attack in Khan al-Assal as well as alleged attacks in two other locations being kept secret for security reasons.
The Syrian opposition has accused the government of killing scores of people in a massive nerve gas attack in Damascus, with death toll estimates varying from a hundred to more than a thousand people.
Russia’s UN mission said Wednesday that the UN Security Council would hold an emergency meeting over the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Both sides in the ongoing Syrian civil war have traded allegations of chemical weapons use. The UN investigative team had been unable to travel to Syria because of diplomatic wrangling over the scope of the access they would have.