Remarks at a UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting Hosted by Russia on the OPCW

John Kelley
Minister Counselor for Political Affairs
New York, New York
March 24, 2023


Colleagues, I will try to be brief. Let us be clear about why we are here today. This meeting is yet another episode of Russia’s protracted disinformation campaign, and just the latest installment of its blatant effort to undermine the long and well-established history of the OPCW’s impartiality, transparency, and professionalism as a technical body.

Disinformation is one of the Kremlin’s most far-reaching weapons, which it uses to create and spread false narratives to distract others from its malign activities and violations of international law.

As with other examples of Kremlin disinformation, Russia’s mendacity about chemical weapons and the OPCW are not necessarily made to persuade others to accept their arguments, but to sow doubt and confusion, and undermine the unity and effectiveness of the international response to violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention, including here at the United Nations.

Colleagues, it is important that UN Member States see this meeting for the deception that it is, and that we act accordingly to hold those that use chemical weapons to account for their actions.

The facts captured in the OPCW’s years’ worth of findings on this file are clear. Together, the OPCW’s IIT and UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism found the Assad regime is responsible for a total of nine chemical weapons attacks against Syrian civilians.

Notably, the OPCW has found the Assad regime responsible for the deadly chemical weapons attack on Douma on April 7, 2018, which killed 43 individuals. To reach this conclusion, OPCW staff reviewed tens of thousands of documents, hundreds of witness statements, and reams of considered data. Conspiracy theories in the service of disinformation cannot make these findings go away.

Instead of engaging in good faith with the OPCW on this investigation, Russia has forwarded its lies without providing OPCW staff any evidence backing up its spurious claims that the Douma attack was a “staged event.”

The OPCW’s report makes clear that during the attack on Douma, Russian forces were co-located at Dumayr airbase, alongside the Syrian Air Forces, and at the time the incident occurred both countries controlled the airspace. It is no wonder then, rather than engaging on the facts, Russia has turned to attacking the OPCW.

Fortunately, no amount of Russia’s disinformation can refute the evidence, facts, and technical analyses reflected in the findings of the OPCW’s investigative teams. We know what happened in Douma and elsewhere in Syria, and we will continue to seek accountability for those responsible for these attacks.

It is worth noting that, beyond Syria, Russia has a long history of spreading disinformation about chemical weapons attacks. It has propagated lies and disinformation concerning the Salisbury poisoning in the United Kingdom in 2018 and the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny in 2020, attacks Russia itself, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, perpetrated.

As we have stated before, only speaking the truth will disarm Russia’s disinformation weapons. We speak before you today to do just that, even as we reject the underlying basis Russia has put forward to convene today’s discussion.

Thank you.