By political reporter Stephanie Borys
Russia’s ambassador to Australia says he does not believe there is any proof yet that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad was behind the recent chemical attack that killed nearly 90 people earlier this month.
- Russian ambassador Gregory Logvinov said Russia is opposed to the use of chemical weapons
- Mr Logvinov said “everything will be done to avoid conflict” on the military hotline
- All parties should show restraint regarding North Korea, Mr Logvinov said, suggesting the US tone down its military exercises
Speaking for the first time since the United States’ airstrike, Grigory Logvinov said Russia is opposed to the use of chemical weapons against people.
The United States and its allies say the Syrian military carried out the attack in Idlib province, something Syria has already denied.
But Mr Logvinov claimed the attack in Syria had not been investigated properly, and questioned why Mr Assad would allow such an incident to occur.
“What was the use for Assad to use chemical weapons?” he said, adding: “No use, absolutely.”
Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne told ABC’s Insiders that people who denied the Assad regime was behind the chemical weapon attack were clearly ignoring the evidence.
Mr Logvinov blatantly dismissed Senator Payne’s comments.
“What are we ignoring?” he said.
Russia denies ‘hanging up’ military hotline
Following the US airstrike, Russia refused to use the military hotline, which is intended to minimise the risk of warplanes colliding in Syrian airspace.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed Australian planes would avoid operating in areas where collisions could occur.
But Mr Logvinov insisted Russia was not to blame for closing the channel.
“It was not Russia who launched tomahawks,” he said, referring to the US airstrike.
Mr Logvinov also reassured Australians the hotline was back on track.
“On the Russian side, everything would be done to avoid any conflict,” he said.
North Korea situation ‘very dangerous’
Mr Logvinov spent seven years as Russia’s special envoy for North-East Asia Security.
He voiced concerns about the situation in North Korea deteriorating, describing it as “dangerous”.
“I am not happy about seeing this war game rhetoric and so on,” he said.
Mr Logvinov said he appealed for all parties to show restraint and suggested the United States tone down its military exercises in the Asia Pacific Region.
“Maybe just for a test, the US could postpone these military exercises,” he said.
“Just not carry out for some period military exercises, of course with the proper appropriate response from the North Korean side.”
North Korea has threatened to carry out “weekly, monthly, yearly” missile tests. (Reuters: Damir Sagolj)