UNITED NATIONS — For the eighth time, Russia used its veto power on the UN Security Council to block a resolution concerning Syria, a country now in the grip of a seventh year of civil war.
Russia wasn’t alone in rejecting the American-French-British measure that would condemn the chemical weapon attack in Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib province on April 4.
The resolution would also call for a comprehensive investigation into who committed the act, including culling information about Syrian aircraft flight logs and access to military personnel.
Bolivia, a nonpermanent member, voted against it, and China — a permanent member on the 15-member body usually allied with Russia — Kazakhstan and Ethiopia abstained.
The attack, which is believed to have involved sarin gas, was aimed at a civilian population, killing nearly 100 people, including dozens of children, officials said.
Responding to the deaths, President Donald Trump dispatched two destroyers to the region on April 6 and launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on the Al Shayrat air base, from which U.S. officials have said the aircraft that delivered the gas were launched.
Trump called the attack the crossing of a “red line,” but members of the Security Council who opposed the missile strike said the United States may have jumped the gun in acting unilaterally and that the resolution assumes Syria’s culpability before the facts are established.
“No one anywhere in the world should ever face that kind of suffering,” said Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, referring to the victims in chiding both Russia and Syria after the results of the vote were announced. “With its veto, Russia said ‘no’ to accountability. Russia said ‘no’ to cooperation with the UN’s independent investigation. And Russia said ‘no’ to a resolution that would have helped promote peace in Syria.”
Russia’s deputy ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, and Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN, Sacha Sergio Llorenti Soliz, rejected the measure, which also included a provision that could subject Syria to military action in the event of noncompliance.
Such a rider was a nonstarter for all of the resolutions that Russia and China have opposed because it carried the prospect of the forceful removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“The Security Council should not be used as a sounding board for war or interventionism,” Soliz said.
The United Kingdom’s UN ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, joined Haley in saying Russia had further isolated itself in supporting Assad.
“Russia cannot now possibly claim that it opposes the use of chemical weapons,” he said. “Russia has seen the same pictures that we all saw just days ago in this chamber. How could anyone look at the faces of lifeless children and choose to veto a resolution condemning those deaths?”