Tags: Russia | Suspends | Aleppo | Bombing | Syria

Russia Suspends Aleppo Bombing to Let Civilians Evacuate

Russia Suspends Aleppo Bombing to Let Civilians Evacuate

Tuesday, 18 October 2016 06:21 AM

Russia announced a temporary suspension of the bombing of Aleppo, calling for civilians and rebels to leave the besieged city after a flareup in tensions between the Kremlin and its western rivals.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian and Syrian air forces stopped strikes on the northern city, where 250,000 residents are trapped in rebel-held eastern neighborhoods, at 10 a.m. Damascus time on Tuesday, according to an e-mailed statement. The announcement, opening the way to a humanitarian pause planned for Thursday, came a day before a meeting in Berlin between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his counterparts from France, Germany and Ukraine to discuss efforts to resolve the war in eastern Ukraine.

Russia is facing intensifying pressure over Aleppo, rejecting accusations of war crimes as the U.S., the U.K. and Germany threaten to impose sanctions on its recession-hit economy. Moscow vetoed a French-proposed United Nations resolution this month demanding an immediate halt to the air strikes. That deepened the international standoff over the conflict, which has killed more than 300,000 people, displaced millions and is at increasing risk of morphing into a proxy war between Russia, the U.S. and regional powers.

“All those who are really interested in a rapid stabilization of the situation in the city of Aleppo need to move to practical steps and not continue to engage in political posturing,” Shoigu said. Military experts from a number of countries will meet on Tuesday in Geneva to discuss how to separate terrorists from moderate opposition groups and get them to leave Aleppo, he said.

Evacuation Corridors

Russia and Syria will establish six corridors for civilians to leave the country’s former commercial capital, and two more to allow safe passage for opposition fighters who want to exit the city and to evacuate the wounded, Shoigu said. Russia’s Defense Ministry said Monday that the humanitarian pause would last for eight hours on Thursday. A U.S.- and Russian-brokered cease-fire collapsed last month after just a week, plunging diplomatic efforts to end the 5 1/2 year civil war in Syria into crisis.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday that Russia is acting “very responsibly” about ensuring humanitarian access to Aleppo. A draft UN Security Council resolution put forward by New Zealand that calls for an end to attacks that may kill civilians or damage civilian infrastructure is “rather interesting,” he said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it decided to press ahead with its humanitarian initiative unilaterally because it would take too long to agree on it with other international parties. It urged rebel leaders to allow civilians to leave Aleppo by clearing mines from the exit routes.

Talks on the conflict among Russia, the U.S. and Middle Eastern powers on Saturday in Switzerland ended without any tangible result amid a warning in Moscow that the risk of military confrontation is increasing between Russia and the U.S.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the sides had discussed certain “ideas” for advancing a resolution of the war and agreed to pursue efforts again soon.

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Russia announced a temporary suspension of the bombing of Aleppo, calling for civilians and rebels to leave the besieged city after a flareup in tensions between the Kremlin and its western rivals.
Russia, Suspends, Aleppo, Bombing, Syria
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2016-21-18
Tuesday, 18 October 2016 06:21 AM
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