U.S. Lauds U.N. Probe on Syria Poison Gas Attack, Russia Denies Culprit Identified

Regardless of the U.N. investigation, the U.S. and Russia remain at loggerheads over Syrian President Bashar Assad's role in the chemical weapons attack

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Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the media after briefing the Security Council on the U.N. chemical weapons report on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Arabic Republic at the United Nations in New York September 16, 2013

Following U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s confirmation on Monday that chemical weapons were used in Syria late last month, the bloc’s U.S. envoy said the report verified that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces were solely responsible for deploying sarin poison gas. However, Russia’s envoy was quick to counter that the investigation failed to pin responsibility for the attack on the Syrian government.

(MORE: U.N. Report Confirms Chemical Weapons Were Used in Syria)

Following Monday’s briefing, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said the investigators’ documentation of the use of surface-to-surface rocket systems in the deployment of sarin gas proved that troops loyal to Assad were behind the attacks.

“We have reviewed thousands of open source videos related to the current conflict in Syria and have not observed the opposition manufacturing or using this style of rocket,” she said.

Russia’s envoy fired back that the dossier failed to provide “bulletproof data or conclusions” with regards to culpability. “As people examine it, everyone can draw their own conclusion, but I hope that won’t be driven by political motives,” said Vitaly Churkin during a press conference with Russian reporters in New York City on Monday.

In Beijing, Chinese authorities appeared to be taking the middle road by saying they were preparing to have “a serious look” at the U.N.’s findings, according to Reuters.

Outside of the diplomatic back-and-forth, munitions expert Eliot Higgins said the report’s confirmation of the type of rocket used in the assault in Damascus on Aug. 21 should raise larger questions about the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons earlier in the month.

According to Higgins’s research, an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Douma and Adra settlements outside the Syrian capital on Aug. 5 was carried out with the same type of rocket that the U.N. has now confirmed killed more than a thousand people.

“It’s important to consider the same munitions used in the Aug. 21 attack were used in previous attacks, in particular a chemical attack on Aug. 5,” Higgins told TIME. “This isn’t about just one attack.”

The U.N. followed its highly anticipated report with news that the delivery of aid to civilians caught between rebel militias and Assad-backed forces has been curtailed sharply in the last few weeks. The U.N. pulled about half of their humanitarian and development staff from the country after last month’s attack.

“Our footprint has been reduced, but we have not shut down,” said U.N. Under-Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan during an interview with Reuters.

Approximately six million Syrians have fled their homes since the civil war kicked off two years ago and an estimated 5,000 people leave the country every day.

MORE: Russia Celebrates a Triumph for Putin After Clinching Syria Deal