Russia Vetoes U.S. Bid for Probe That Would Lay Blame for Syria Chemical Attacks

'This resolution is the bare minimum that the council can do to respond to the attack,' U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says

A child receiving oxygen through respirators following an alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria, April 8, 2018.

Russia on Tuesday vetoed a U.S.-drafted UN Security Council resolution that would have created a new inquiry to ascertain blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. 

Twelve council members voted in favor, while Bolivia joined Russia in voting no, and China abstained. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass. 

"This resolution is the bare minimum that the council can do to respond to the attack," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council before the vote, referring to reports of a deadly poison gas attack in Syria's Douma. 

The United States and other Western powers consider taking military action over Saturday's attack. 

Haley also accused Russia on Tuesday of repeatedly shielding President Bashar Assad instead of working for Security Council unity.

As tensions between Russia and the U.S. continue, a senior Russian lawmaker said earlier Tuesday that a U.S. strike on Syria could trigger a direct military clash between the two countries.

Deputy Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vladimir Safronkov, speaks with Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya at the start of a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria.
Drew Angerer/AFP

Vladimir Shamanov, a retired general who heads the defense affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said in televised remarks Tuesday that a U.S. strike in Syria could hurt Russian servicemen and trigger Russian retaliation.

He said that Russia has "the necessary means for that and the Americans and their allies know that quite well."

Shamanov emphasized that a retaliatory Russian strike could target U.S. navy ships and aircraft. He added that the use of nuclear weapons is "unlikely."

Last week, a chemical attack on a rebel-held town in Syria's eastern Ghouta killed dozens of people, a medical relief organization and rescue workers reported, and Washington said it would demand an immediate international response if the reports were confirmed.

Medical relief organization Syrian American Medical Society said 41 people had been killed, with other reports putting the death toll much higher. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 80 people were killed, including around 40 who died from suffocation. The civil defense rescue service, also known as the White Helmets, put the death toll as high as 150 on one of its Twitter feeds.