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AMBASSADOR'S ARTICLES

07.07.2017

The chemical incident in Khan Sheikhoun: why is the West not interested in the truth? (by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko)

There are speculations about the chemical incident in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 flared up by the recent report by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria (FFMS). On the surface, this report looks somewhat respectable, has been welcomed by some countries as a “highly professional” piece of work and even hailed to have provided incontestable evidence of Damascus’ guilt for the “chemical attack”.

Russia’s assessments of this document are much more reserved. Its quality leaves much to be desired and let me explain why we think so.

First of all, it did not honour the basic chain-of-custody principle: FFMS’ experts failed to obtain on-site biomedical and environmental samples, as is required by the standard procedure. The samples were obtained in another country and from other people. Will it stand scrutiny in a court of law, or is it a kangaroo court, we’ve got to put up with?

Secondly, the report contains no information on how exactly sarin was used. It merely notes that members of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission were unable to reach any definite conclusions on this matter, although this aspect is a key element of establishing the truth.

Thirdly, the results of the investigation would be much more complete if OPCW experts actually visited the Shayrat Airbase where the sarin, used in Khan Sheikhoun, was allegedly stored. It is not only us who insisted on this but also the Government of Syria that pledged to guarantee complete safety. Unfortunately, OPCW representatives wouldn’t make from this trip under a pretext that doesn’t hold water.

Against this backdrop, Washington’s claims that the Syrians were allegedly once again planning to use the Shayrat Airbase for a chemical attack look odd, to say the least. If US partners are really confident about this, then they should grab the chance to visit this facility to obtain evidence they want. But they continue to emphatically refuse to do this.

From the very beginning, Russia considered it necessary to pay serious attention to the probability that the incident was staged. But the OPCW FFM report completely overlooks this aspect. At the same time, available photo and video materials deserve to be studied, not ignored. And it’s not just Russia, who has doubts. Independent experts, including from US, are pointing at multiple conflicting data. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Theodore A. Postol has conducted the appropriate technical analysis refuting the free-fall bomb theory. On June 29, 2017, Scott Ritter, an outstanding US expert on disarmament and chemical weapons, published a detailed article on this topic in The American Conservative.

We believe that a more thorough investigation should be immediately launched to establish the truth. In particular, it is necessary to focus on learning how this poisonous gas was delivered to the site of the incident. The international community deserves better than being duped by terrorists, whose invasion of Syria 5 years ago started the tragedy in their country.




LATEST EVENTS

19.07.2017 - Real actions, not sanctions, needed to save public health in Syria (by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for RT)

The humanitarian situation in Syria remains complex. According to the UN, 13,5 million Syrians or more than half of the country’s population need help. Of the UN 2017 humanitarian appeal for Syria of $3,4 bn, so far $702 mln has been allocated by donors. The Syrian public health system, which was once considered the best in the region, has now significantly deteriorated and its state is of particular concern. There is limited access of the population to the medical and sanitary services, and the immunization from the main diseases remains at a very low level. As of the end of June, 17 cases of poliomyelitis were registered in the country. The threat of epidemic remains high. Due to the lack of clean drinking water, outbreaks of dysentery, cholera and typhoid fever are ever more possible.


07.07.2017 - Russian and Chinese initiative on solving Korean Peninsula’s problems (by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for RT)

The recent DPRK’s missile launch caused serious concerns in the international community. These actions contradict relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Meanwhile, to avoid further escalation we all should maintain calm, renounce provocative moves or belligerence of all types and work actively together to defuse tension. Re-launching a dialogue on the comprehensive resolution of the problems is the only way to a sustainable settlement.


06.07.2017 - Collective Security in Eurasia: Managing Diversity and Multiple Threats (by Ambassador Yakovenko for OCA Magazine)

25 years ago several independent states, formerly Republics of the Soviet Union, including Russia, Kazakhstan, Belorussia, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, signed the Collective Security Treaty. 10 years later they established the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Even this chronology shows that it was not an easy process. It took time for the member-states to assess their own security interests and requirements, as well as the overall security picture in the region they share.


15.05.2017 - There can be only political solutions on the Korean peninsula (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

There is no doubt that what we are living through in present is one of the most dramatic developments on the Korean peninsula showing that the threat of confrontation is moving into its hottest phase than ever before. The belligerent rhetoric coupled with reckless muscle-flexing has led to a dangerous situation where one careless step can lead to the most terrible consequences.


11.05.2017 - The OPCW investigation of Khan-Sheikhoun chemical incident: how credible? (Article by Ambassador Yakovenko for The Daily Telegraph)

Unfortunately, there is still no proper reaction by the OPCW to the alleged use of sarin in Khan Sheikhoun of 4 April. The work of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) to Syria is shrouded in secrecy. What is clear is that it continues to operate in a remote mode, using Internet data mostly concocted by the radical elements of the Syrian opposition, including the notorious “White Helmets”. From the scarce information one can gather that the samples taken from those injured or dead were tested in the OPCW-licensed laboratories in Britain and Turkey and established to be sarin or sarin-like substance. However, the samples were not taken at the site of the incident, but, it appears, in the Turkish territory, to which the injured and the bodies of the dead were taken. Hence the basic principle of the investigation, that of the chain of custody, hasn’t been observed. There are no answers on that from our Western partners. As there is no clear evidence that those people were from Khan Sheikhoun and not from somewhere else.


02.05.2017 - Investigation into Khan Sheikhoun: rules-based order tested by Western scheming (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

There is still no proper reaction by the OPCW to the alleged use of sarin in Khan Sheikhoun in Syria on 4 April. Unfortunately, the work of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) to Syria is shrouded in secrecy. What is clear is that it continues to operate in a remote mode, using Internet data mostly concocted by the radical elements of the Syrian opposition, including the notorious “White Helmets”. From the scarce information one can gather that the samples taken from those injured or dead were tested in the OPCW-licensed laboratories in Britain and Turkey and established to be sarin or sarin-like substance. However, the samples were not taken at the site of the incident. Hence the basic principle of the investigation, that of the chain of custody, hasn’t been observed. There are no answers on that from our Western partners. As there is no clear evidence that those people were from Khan Sheikhoun and not from somewhere else.


28.04.2017 - UK is blocking independent international investigation into Khan Sheikhoun incident (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

On April 18, in response to a statement by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on British experts at Porton Down lab having analyzed some samples taken at the site of the chemical incident in Khan Sheikhoun, we have asked the Foreign Office to provide us with the information on its unilateral investigation. In particular, we requested information on what kind of samples and where were taken and whether the OPCW’s key requirement of chain of custody was observed during the collection of evidence. If the British side had access to the scene of the incident, why wouldn’t it provide such an access for the OPCW experts? We have not received any reply so far.


31.03.2017 - Liberation of Mosul: a new catastrophe? (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

We are deeply concerned over the deteriorating plight of the civilians in Mosul, who are paying an excessively high price for their liberation from terrorists. We have seen devastating consequences of the first phase of the military operation in the eastern districts of Mosul, where the Coalition applied doubtful tactics to push terrorists out of the city. Those efforts led to deplorable results: at least 1,500 civilians were killed and over 160,000 were displaced. During that brutal fighting about 60 percent of administrative buildings, 90 percent of transport infrastructure, 15 percent of residential buildings and 30 percent of schools were ruined.


06.03.2017 - The growing Russian economy is increasingly open for business (article by Ambassador Yakovenko for The Daily Telegraph, 6 March 2017)

Tough challenges, including weak global growth, low energy prices and Western sanctions have been used by the Russian Government as incentives to make difficult, but sound decisions to keep our economy in shape. Most of the problems have been overcome, and we have adapted to the new, tougher trade and economic environment, that some call deglobalisation.


21.02.2017 - Remembering Ambassador Churkin (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

Work in New York, at a mission to the United Nations differs a lot from any Embassy. Especially so for a mission of a nation-permanent member of the Security Council. The last ten years, when Vitaly Churkin represented Russia at the UN, undoubtedly where the most busy and strenuous, given the War in Iraq, intervention in Libya, the crises in Syria and Ukraine. On all these issues there were serious differences between major powers, which increased demand for multilateral diplomacy. On many occasions those were non-stop, marathon sessions aimed at reaching consensus, finding some common ground as a basis for international action.



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