Russia has decided to provide naval escorts to ships ferrying tonnes of material as part of a multinational exercise, involving the United States and its European allies as partners, to destroy Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister announced in Brussels after meeting his European Union (EU) counterparts that Moscow will provide the “necessary means of transportation” to transfer Syria’s toxic agents in one place.

Russia — which has played a leading role in convincing Syria to shed chemical arms — will render its assistance in two stages.

Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told RIA Novosti news agency that Russia will provide material and technical support to first transport chemical agents on land to the Syrian port of Latakia.

From the Syrian coast, the stockpile of around 500 tonnes will be moved along ships that are being mainly provided by the EU. “We will be prepared to provide Russian Navy ships to escort those vessels with chemical substances in order to ensure the security of this operation,” Mr. Lavrov observed.

He added: “After that, the toxic agents will be transferred to the ship the United States is outfitting now where the bulk of the work will be done to destroy these chemical substances. This will be done in strict and full compliance with all environmental requirements”.

According to the Pentagon, it would take 45-90 days to neutralise the chemical components used for making mustard gas and Sarin.

Russia had persuaded Syria to destroy its chemical weapons after it was accused in August by Washington and its allies of using Sarin gas against civilians on the outskirts of Damascus.

The controversy on the identity of the attackers echoed powerfully in the U.N. Security Council on Monday — with Russian representative Vitaly Churkin taking on his western counterparts during the debate.

Russia Today quoted Mr. Churkin as saying that the U.S. has relied on the sophisticated filtration of information and manipulation of public opinion to build a case against Syria.

“Why would the Syrian government use chemical weapons on August 21?” said Mr. Churkin. “To cross the red line drawn by Washington and invite a missile strike upon itself? Why would the opposition use chemical weapons? Exactly because of the red line. To provoke foreign military intervention in the Syrian conflict.”

Accusing Syria of being a persistent human rights violator, the U.S. representative Samantha Power told the Security Council that the “Russian regime has a remarkable trust in a government that sends rockets at and bombs its own population”. Mr. Churkin retorted by saying that he was relying on facts.

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