Russia and China today supported the Syrian government by vetoing a UN resolution that would impose sanctions on 21 Syrian individuals, organisations and companies allegedly involved in chemical weapons attacks in the war-ravaged country.
Russia had said the vote on the resolution, drafted by France, Britain and the United States, would harm UN-led peace talks between the warring Syrian parties in Geneva, which began last week.
Nine council members voted in favour, Bolivia voted against, while Egypt, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained. A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted.
Russian President Vladimir Putin today described the draft resolution as "totally inappropriate".
"For my friends in Russia, this resolution is very appropriate," US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council after the vote.
"It is a sad day on the Security Council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people. The world is definitely a more dangerous place," she said.
Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, described the statements made against Moscow in the Security Council as "outrageous" and declared that "God will judge you".
"Today's clash or confrontation is not a result of our negative vote. It is a result of the fact that you decided on provocation while you knew well ahead of time our position," said Safronkov.
British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the council before the vote: "This is about taking a stand when children are poisoned. It's that simple. It's about taking a stand when civilians are maimed and murdered with toxic weapons."
Chlorine's use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013. If inhaled, chlorine gas turns to hydrochloric acid in the lungs and can kill by burning lungs and drowning victims in body fluids.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's government has denied its forces have used chemical weapons. Russia has questioned the results of the UN inquiry and long said there was not enough proof for the Security Council to take any action.
French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said the failure by the council to act would "send a message of impunity".
China's UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi said it was too early to act because the international investigation was still ongoing.
"We oppose the use of chemical weapons," he said.