Russia said on Tuesday it will veto a UN resolution to refer the Syrian conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it comes to a vote in the Security Council, The Guardian reports.
Moscow's position was announced by Gennady Gatilov, the deputy foreign minister, and is consistent with previous moves to protect Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad from international censure in more than three years of the civil war in his country.
"The draft that has been submitted to the UN security council is unacceptable to us, and we will not support it," Gatilov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
"If it is put to a vote, we will veto it."
France first circulated the proposal last month after briefing the Security Council on photographic evidence, provided by a defector, of mass killings of detainees by the Syrian government, according to The Guardian.
The resolution calls for the ICC to be given a mandate over crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Syria.
The Security Council is expected to vote on Thursday. China is expected to follow Russia and use its veto. Britain, the United States and the other governments that back the referral say the resolution still has symbolic and moral value.
The 58 countries, led by Switzerland, appealed to all 193 UN member states to co-sponsor the resolution, under which the ICC would be authorized to investigate allegations of heinous crimes by the Syrian government, pro-government militias, and armed opposition groups.
They condemned "widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed in a pervasive climate of impunity by the Syrian authorities and pro-government militias as well as by non-state armed groups." The draft resolution deliberately does not target one side.
Russia, joined by China, has vetoed at least four Security Council resolutions that would have condemned Assad's government and threatened it with sanctions. The last veto came in January, when Russia blocked a UN Security Council statement that would have expressed outrage at the use of missiles and "barrel bombs" by Assad’s forces.
In recent weeks there have been accusations that Assad’s forces carried out several attacks using chlorine gas. Last week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the Syrian regime is believed to have used chemical weapons, including chlorine, in 14 attacks since late 2013.
Syria has emphatically denied that it had carried out chlorine gas attacks against civilians.