UN report on Syria sarin attack 'unprofessional': Russia

Moscow (AFP) –


Russia on Thursday dismissed a report by a UN-led panel that blamed the Syrian regime for a sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun as "superficial and unprofessional".

"We believe that the report turned out to be superficial, unprofessional and amateurish," said the foreign ministry's security and disarmament department head, Mikhail Ulyanov.

"The mission did their research from a distance, that in itself is a scandal."

At least 87 people died on April 4 this year when sarin gas projectiles were fired into Khan Sheikhun, a town in the Idlib province of northwestern Syria.

Images of dead and dying victims, including young children, in the aftermath of the attack provoked global outrage and a US cruise missile strike on a regime air base.

A joint panel by the UN and the world's chemical watchdog Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded that the Syrian regime was responsible, and that the air force had dropped a bomb on the town, releasing the deadly nerve agent.

Russia and Syria have however presented an alternative theory that an explosive device was set off on the ground. Ulyanov on Thursday suggested the sarin gas was poured inside the crater in the ground left by the bomb.

He spoke as part of a panel of foreign ministry, air force and other Russian officials presenting slides that showed elaborate diagrams of regime war planes' trajectories and satellite images in an effort to cast doubt on the UN report.

The officials also showed video footage of rescue personnel working in the crater wearing "only respirators and cotton gloves."

Ulyanov said the video had been filmed after rebels detonated the bomb and before the sarin gas was poured into the crater.

"If it were an aerial bomb, the bomb's tail would be in the crater, but there are no traces of an aerial bomb," he said.

"The verdict against Damascus that has been issued so confidently turned out to be baseless," he said.