Surprise! Russia is lying about Syrian chemical weapon attack

Ed wrote yesterday about the chemical weapon attack in Syria. At least 70 people were killed in the attack, as many as 20 of them children. Experts believe Sarin gas, a nerve agent, was used rather than the chlorine barrel bombs Syria has dropped on rebel areas in the past. As it often does in these situations, Russia has offered a different, and completely implausible, explanation for the attack. From the BBC:

“Yesterday [Tuesday], from 11:30am to 12:30pm local time, Syrian aviation made a strike on a large terrorist ammunition depot and a concentration of military hardware in the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun town,” Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konoshenkov said.

“On the territory of the depot there were workshops which produced chemical warfare munitions.”

Russia is now claiming the United Nations, which called an emergency meeting after the attack, should not rush to judgment on the question of who is responsible. Meanwhile, everyone else who has looked at this says this was a Syrian chemical weapons attack from the air. From the BBC:

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer of the British Armed Forces Joint Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) Regiment, said it was “pretty fanciful”.

“Axiomatically, if you blow up Sarin, you destroy it,” he told the BBC.

“It’s very clear it’s a Sarin attack,” he added. “The view that it’s an al-Qaeda or rebel stockpile of Sarin that’s been blown up in an explosion, I think is completely unsustainable and completely untrue.”

CNN reports the World Health Organization also concluded this was a chemical weapon attack which appeared to have been “air-launched”:

The World Health Organization said victims bore the signs of exposure to nerve agents, and Amnesty International said evidence pointed to an ‘air-launched chemical attack.’ International agencies were working to establish the provenance of the agents used in the strike.

If you’ve been paying attention to the situation in Syria then you already know that lying about events is what Russia does. Last September, during a cease-fire in the fighting, a United Nations relief convoy of trucks made its way toward the opposition-held area of Aleppo. The convoy of food and supplies was bombed, apparently by Russian aircraft, killing 20 people. After the attack, which was witnessed by numerous people, Russia claimed the trucks had simply caught on fire. Secretary of State John Kerry mocked the Russian explanation by asking if anyone believed the trucks full of food had “spontaneously combusted.”

The bottom line here is that Russia has the ability to veto any action taken by the United Nations. That means it can continue blocking any resolution that seeks to hold the Assad regime responsible for the gassing of its own citizens. All it needs to do is offer some risible alternative explanation that preserves the pretense Assad is playing by the rules.