MOSCOW (Reuters) - A senior Russian diplomat said on Sunday the massacre of civilians in the Syrian town of Houla "deserves condemnation" but that it was too early to say who was to blame.
"The tragic events in Syria and the deaths of tens of people deserve condemnation. However it is necessary to seriously examine the causes of what happened," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Twitter.
"Let's wait for the objective evaluations of the U.N. mission," he said. The U.N. Security Council was meeting later on Sunday to discuss the killings of at least 109 people.
Western and Arab states opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blame the government, while the government blames rebels.
Gatilov's remarks suggested Russia, which has backed Assad with weapons supplies and vetoes in the Security Council, was seeking to cast doubt on accounts the government was to blame.
"There is information that the nature of the wounds received by many of those who died are not the result of shelling," he said.
Opposition activists said Assad's forces shelled Houla after a protest and then clashed with fighters from the Sunni Muslim-led insurgency.
Activists say Assad's 'shabbiha' militia, loyal to an establishment dominated by members of the minority Alawite sect, then hacked dozens of the victims to death, or shot them.
Russia blames armed opponents of Assad's government for most of the violence that has persisted since a U.N.-backed ceasefire took effect on April 12, and says they are receiving foreign backing and arms.
(Reporting By Thomas Grove; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Andrew Heavens)