Thursday 27 October 2016

Russia rejects war crime claim, saying ceasefire helps terrorists

Roland Oliphant

Published 27/09/2016 | 02:30

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Picture: Reuters
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Picture: Reuters

Terrorists are using the cover of the Syrian ceasefire to rearm, Russia said yesterday, as it hit back at US and British accusations of "war crimes" in Aleppo.

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"Terrorists are using the ceasefire regime to regroup, to replenish their arsenals and for obvious preparations to carry out attacks," said Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's spokesman.

He also lashed out at British and American diplomats who accused Moscow of "barbarism" over its ongoing bombardment of the Syrian city of Aleppo. "We note the overall unacceptable tone and rhetoric of the representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States, which can damage and harm our relations," Mr Peskov said.

Matthew Rycroft, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, accused Russia of "partnering with the Syrian regime to carry out war crimes," during a bitter meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday.

Russian officials said yesterday that Western powers had failed to live up to their responsibilities on Syria and said previous truces had provided cover for terrorists to regroup.

Syria's foreign minister said the US-Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement was still viable and that his administration was prepared to take part in a unity government.

Walid al-Moallem said in a television interview that continuing contacts between Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and John Kerry, the US secretary of state, meant that the agreement is not yet dead.

The latest rupture in Moscow's relations with the West came as a fresh wave of Russian and Syrian regime air strikes battered opposition-held eastern districts of Aleppo, in what medical workers there called the worst bombing in five years of war.

Russian and Syrian aircraft have unleashed a ferocious series of air strikes on eastern Aleppo since Thursday, including with so-called "bunker-busting" bombs that destroy underground shelters used by civilians and hospitals.

Medics inside eastern Aleppo said that at least 95 people died in bombing on Saturday alone. About half of the casualties suffered since the bombing campaign began on Thursday have been children.

The Syrian government says the objective of the current onslaught is to finally retake Aleppo, a stronghold of the opposition since war broke out in 2011. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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