United Nations: Russia has dismissed as "unconvincing" the findings of a UN-led investigation showing that Syrian forces had carried out three chemical attacks and said no sanctions should be imposed.
"We believe that the proof is not there for any punitive action to be taken. It's simply not there," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters following a closed-door Security Council meeting yesterday.
The joint United Nations-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) panel has concluded that government forces carried out three chemical attacks on villages in 2014 and 2015.
It was the first time an international probe pointed the finger of blame at President Bashar al-Assad's forces after years of denial from Damascus.
But Churkin told the council that the findings were not strong enough to trigger sanctions.
The ambassador said the conclusions "in most cases... Are not substantiated by sufficient testimonial basis, first of all material proof, they are full of contradictions and therefore unconvincing," according of a text of his remarks.
Churkin said the conclusions were "not definitive, have no legally binding force and cannot serve as accusatory conclusions for taking legal decisions."
But Britain and France have demanded sanctions.
"Those responsible for using chemical weapons must be sanctioned. There is no other way," French Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters.
"There should be accountability for every single person involved in any use of chemical weapons in Syria or indeed anywhere else," British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters ahead of the meeting.
The latest report by the panel sent to the Security Council last Friday said government helicopters flew from two government controlled air bases to drop chlorine barrel-bombs on the villages of Qmenas, Talmenes and Sarmin, in rebel-held Idlib province.
Previous reports from the OPCW had concluded that toxic gases have been used as weapons in Syria's five-year war, but stopped short of identifying the perpetrators.
The report identified the 253 and 255 squadrons of the 63rd helicopter brigade, which flew from the Hama and Humaymim air bases, and the 628 squadron based in Humaymim as the perpetrators.
The UN-OPCW panel also found that the Islamic State group used mustard gas as a weapon in August 2015.