The Russian ambassador to the United Nations has warned that his country is being “unpardonably threatened” by the US, UK and France as the organisation’s human rights chief said nations needed to “wake up fast” to the dangers of chemical weapons.
Speaking at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council following allegations of a poisoned gas attack in Syria on Saturday, Vasily Nebenzya said that the “tone” had gone “beyond the threshold of what is acceptable, even during the Cold War”.
Earlier yesterday, Theresa May said the UK and allies are considering any action that is necessary in the wake of the attack in rebel-held Douma, northeast of Damascus, which killed at least 40 people, including children.
The Prime Minister’s comments came after US President Donald Trump said he would meet military advisers to look at options and stated that “nothing’s off the table”.
Mr Trump said yesterday that he would decide on a US response to the apparent chemical weapons attack by the end of the day, US-time.
Mr Nebenzya said: “We are deeply alarmed at the fact that in a number of capitals, above all in Washington and those blindly following it in London and Paris, there was a deliberate policy undertaken to stoke international tensions.
“The leadership of the United States, UK and of France, without any justifications and without considering the consequences, have engaged in a confrontational policy against Russia and Syria and are they are prompting others to follow suit.”
He added: “A broad arsenal of methods is beiong leveraged: slander, insults, hawkish rhetoric, blackmail, sanctions and threats to use force against the sovereign state. Russia is being unpardonably threatened. The tone with which this is being done has gone beyond the threshold of what is acceptable, even during the Cold War. Such boorishness against my country is something that your predecessors did not take the liberty to undertake. What is next?”
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein warned of a “collective shrug” and “impotent” international response to the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria over the weekend. He said the world and veto-wielding Security Council powers need to “wake up fast to the irreparable damage” being done to international efforts to ban use of weapons of mass destruction.
His office in Geneva says it has a lack of information about the purported chemical weapons attack on Saturday. But it pointed to nearly three dozen chemical attacks in Syria since the country ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention four and a half years ago.
Ms May said Russia must be “held to account” alongside Syria if Bashar Assad’s regime is found to be responsible for the poison gas attack in Douma.
She warned Russia, a supporter of the Syrian government, that it will face repercussions as well as Assad.
At a press conference during a visit to Denmark, she said: “If they are found to be responsible, the regime and its backers, including Russia, must be held to account.”
The PM said the attack in Douma was part of a “troubling wider pattern of acts of aggression” and abuse of international norms on the use of chemical weapons.
Russia’s repeated use of its veto at the UN has “enabled” international rules on chemical weapons attacks to be broken and investigations hampered, the premier said.
“This must stop,” she added.
Asked if the UK would join any US-led military action in Syria, Mrs May said during a visit to Sweden yesterday afternoon: “What we are currently doing is working urgently with our allies to assess what has happened here.
“This has been an absolutely barbaric attack that has taken place.
“And, if it is clear that it is the responsibility of the Assad regime, it’s yet another example of the callous and brutal way in which he’s been treating his people.
“And we are clear that those responsible should be held to account.
“We ... are working urgently with our allies to asses what has happened. But, we are also working with our allies on any action that is necessary.”
Ms May said the case of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury showed “similar recklessness last month with the use of chemical weapons”.
“The UK’s case for holding Russia responsible for the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal is clear,” she added.
In response, Mr Nebenzya told the UN meeting that the Skripal case had been “muddled up” by London.
Mr Trump condemned the “heinous attack” in Syria which occurred on Saturday, saying: “It was an atrocious attack. It was horrible.”
The US president said the US is still investigating the possible involvement of the Iranian and Russian governments in the strike.
“If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out,” he said.
He added of Russian President Vladimir Putin, “everybody’s going to pay a price - he will, everybody will”.
The attack comes almost exactly a year after a chemical atrocity in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people.
That attack prompted the US to launch several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base.
Russia and Syria have blamed Israel for an attack on a Syrian military airport on Monday that reportedly killed at least 14 people.