Russia, U.S. could send servicemen to destroy chemical weapons in Syria

Servicemen from several countries, Russia included, will help Damascus safely transport and destroy its chemical weapons, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Thursday.

"The defense ministry is currently holding consultations 'regarding the size of the contingent' which might be send to Syria," the newspaper quoted its source in the Russian General Staff as saying. It is expected that the group would be comprised of experts from the nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection forces of Russia, the source told the newspaper. It is also possible that a special purpose brigade could be sent to the operation site, the newspaper reported.

Russian and U.S. delegations discussed the issue of ensuring the security of the Syrian chemical weapons program's facilities during the recent talks in Geneva, the daily reported. Under the agreements reached which concern the security of the areas where work will be carried out, servicemen from Russia, the United States and a number of European countries will participate, the newspaper reported citing a source.

Russia and the United States have powerful and specialized subdivisions of chemical protection forces, the source said. As to the involvement of Europe, for example, that of the United Kingdom and France, their participation in the operation will lower the risk of possible aggression by the Syrian opposition, a Russian diplomatic source said.

The exact number of servicemen Russia will send to Syria is still unknown, the newspaper reported. "Different variants are being considered. The exact number and composition of the contingent will depend on how many soldiers our foreign partners will allocate for this mission," the newspaper quoted its source in the Russian General Staff as saying.

The total number of participants from all countries could amount to up to 10,000 people, the source said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has told Interfax that Russia's contribution to the liquidation of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile would be considerable and not only involve political support but material as well. "Our assistance will be material, not only political. This could include experts' input, technologies and many other things," Ryabkov told Interfax.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has recently said that Russia may participate in security efforts during the implementation of the initiative on chemical weapons, Ryabkov said.

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