MOSCOW — Russian officials Wednesday accused Western nations of short-circuiting the work of United Nations weapons inspectors in Syria in their eagerness to launch an attack on Damascus.
A British resolution in the U.N. Security Council condemning the Syrian government for using chemical weapons is premature given that the inspectors in Syria have not yet reported back on their findings, Russia’s first deputy foreign minister, Vladimir Titov, said in remarks quoted by the Interfax news agency.
The inspectors’ report is not expected until the weekend at the earliest.
With both Russia and China holding veto power in the Security Council, there is also no prospect that the British resolution will pass. Instead, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russia’s parliament said, the move is an attempt to provide a justification for the attack on Syria that Moscow appears to believe is inevitable.
“They want to show that they will not ignore the U.N. Security Council,” Alexei Pushkov told Interfax. “It is even possible to predict the situation’s further development. If the resolution proposed by London is rejected, the United States and the United Kingdom will insist that they are certain that they are correct and that it is necessary to strike Syria.”
A Western military operation against Syria will lead to further bloodshed and will not resolve the civil war there, the parliamentary speaker, Sergei Naryshkin, said while on a trip to Slovakia. It will, however, “cause significant damage to the U.N., the world community and international law,” he added, in remarks relayed by the Itar-Tass news agency.
“U.N. experts started working in Syria,” he said. “Several NATO countries said the experts’ conclusions were unnecessary and expressed readiness to launch a military operation against the Syrian military. These are very dangerous statements. Currently no one knows who has used chemical weapons.”
Russia has been a solid ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. On Tuesday and Wednesday, two planes belonging to Russia’s Emergencies Ministry delivered 15 tons of aid to Syria that the Foreign Ministry described as food and other essentials. The planes returned with 116 passengers on board, identified as Russians and citizens of other former Soviet republics.
Russia has also been supplying Assad’s forces with antiaircraft and anti-ship weapons, which would make a Western attack on Syria more difficult than the aerial bombardment of Libya was in 2011.
The Foreign Ministry said Russia is not evacuating its diplomats in Damascus.
Official comments in Moscow suggested that Russia believes an attack is almost certain. The foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry late Tuesday evening, with the two men disagreeing on the evidence of chemical weapons use, the ministry said in a statement. It was their second phone conversation on Syria this week, and they agreed to talk again, the statement said.
Titov, the deputy minister, said Russia supports Wednesday’s statement by Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, in which he stressed his hopes for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict.