Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution on 12 April 2017 that condemned the use of chemical weapons in the rebel-held Syrian town, Khan Sheikhoun and demanded a speedy investigation into the details of the attack. The resolution drafted by Britain, France and the United States aimed to bring Russia’s ally Syria on the negotiating table. The western countries believe that Bashar al-Assad-led Syrian government has a lot to do with the chemical attack, a claim that is rejected by both Moscow and Syria.
While 10 nations voted in favour of the resolution, Bolivia voted against and China, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan chose to abstain from the process. Russia used its veto power to prevent the adoption of the resolution. This is the eighth time that Russia has vetoed a resolution on Syria ever since the nation got embroiled in its long-drawn civil war. The deputy Russian ambassador to the UN, Vladimir Safronkov rejected the proposal with claims stating that the western powers had pre-judged the Syrian government to be guilty of the chemical attack that killed over 90 people, prior to the investigation.
Russia had drafted an alternate resolution but did not put it up for a vote. The vote happened just hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov. Speaking on the development, US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley stated that with its use of the veto, Russia has not only said no to accountability but has also said no to cooperating with the UN’s investigation and to helping keep peace in Syria. She also added that by choosing to back Syrian President Assad, even as the rest of the world comes together to condemn the regime, Russia has further isolated itself.
The deadlock has left UN’s most powerful body struggling to tackle the use of banned chemicals and the heating issue of Syrian civil war. It has also deepened the division between Moscow and the western powers, raising concerns over future clashes between the two sides. The use of the veto in the UNSC refers to the power that enables the five permanent members of the council- France, China, Russia, UK and the US -to prevent the adoption of any substantive resolution.