BERLIN -- Russia says a deadly March sarin attack in an Aleppo suburb was carried out by Syrian rebels, not forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, and it has delivered a 100-page report laying out its evidence to the United Nations.
A statement posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website late Wednesday said the report included detailed scientific analysis of samples that Russian technicians collected at the site of the alleged attack, Khan al Asal in northern Syria. The attack killed 26 people.
A U.N. spokesman, Farhan Haq, confirmed that Russia delivered the report in July.
The report itself was not released. But the statement drew a pointed comparison between what it said was the scientific detail of the report and the far shorter intelligence summaries that the United States, Britain and France have released to justify their assertion that the Syrian government launched chemical weapons against Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21. The longest of those summaries, by the French, ran nine pages. Each relies primarily on circumstantial evidence to make its case, and they disagree with one another on some details, including the number of people who died in the attack.
The Russian statement warned the United States and its allies not to conduct a military strike against Syria until the United Nations had completed a similarly detailed scientific study into the Aug. 21 attack. It charged that what it called the current hysteria about a possible military strike in the West was similar to the false claims and poor intelligence that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Russia said its investigation of the March 19 incident was conducted under strict protocols established by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international agency that governs adherence to treaties prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. It said samples that Russian technicians had collected had been sent to OPCW-certified laboratories in Russia.
The Russian report is specific, the ministry statement said. It is a scientific and technical document.
The Russian statement said Russian officials had broken the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons code of silence on such probes only because Western nations appear to be preparing the ground for military action in retaliation for the Aug. 21 incident.
A U.N. team spent four days late last month investigating the Aug. 21 incident. The samples it collected from the site and alleged victims of the attack are currently being examined at the chemical weapons organizations labs in Europe. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the United States to delay any strike until after the results of that investigation are known. But U.S. officials have dismissed the U.N. probe, saying it wont tell them anything they dont already know.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said U.S. officials were unmoved by the Russian report and held the Assad government responsible for both the Khan al Asal attack in March and the Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus.
We have studied the Russian report but have found no reason to change our assessment, she said.
Independent chemical weapons experts contacted by McClatchy said they were not familiar with the report and had not read the Russian statement, which was posted as Secretary of State John Kerry was appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to make the Obama administrations case for a retaliatory strike on Syria as punishment for the August attack. But they were cautious about the details made public in the Russian statement.