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Syrian army, Russian aircraft keep fighting terrorists near Palmyra

March 31, 21:24 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Russia has criticized Britain’s Airwars Monitoring Group (AMG) report, which claims that Russian air strikes have caused huge civilian casualties in Syria
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© Valery Sharifulin/TASS, archive

MOSCOW, March 31 /TASS/. The Syrian army, with support from Russia’s Aerospace Forces, keeps fighting militants of the Islamic State terrorist group near Palmyra, the Russian center for reconciliation of the warring sides in Syria said in a news bulletin Thursday.

"The government troops of the Syrian Arab Republic, with support from Russia’s Aerospace Forces, keep conducting military operations against ISIL terrorists in areas adjoining Palmyra and Al-Karyatein," the report posted on the Russian Defense Ministry’s website said.

The Syrian army recaptured Palmyra March 27. The city had been controlled by militants of the Islamic State terrorist group since May 2015.

Earlier Thursday, Russian General Staff Main Operations Directorate chief Lt. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy said the operation to liberate Palmyra was planned with participation of Russian military advisers.

Rudskoy said Russia’s Aerospace Forces made over 2,000 strikes to support the Syrian troops. Besides, Russian special operations forces were involved in the effort to recapture the ancient city.

Russia says British report on civilian deaths under Russian bombs based on speculations

Russia has criticized Britain’s Airwars Monitoring Group (AMG) report, which claims that Russian air strikes have caused huge civilian casualties in Syria.

It is based on speculations invented by British human rights activists, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told journalists on Thursday.

The general described the AMG as a "new signboard" of British exposers from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and similar organizations.

"Suffice it to look at the personalities of AMG ‘analysts’ to discover a category of experts called ‘international journalists’, which has been growingly popular of late, among them. By the way, part of them are also members of another expert community called Bellingcat, which is notoriously famous for its allegations about Russia’s complicity to the Malaysian Boeing crash over Ukraine [in July 2014]," Konashenkov went on to say.

He said he was surprised that all those anti-Russian "experts", "analysts", "activists", "human rights activists" and simply those who hate Russia are growing up and proliferating like poisonous mushrooms in Britain. "However, the absolute credulity and lack of criticism of some Russian business and economic media outlets, which are taking the works of the ‘British scientists’ seriously is no less surprising," Konashenkov stressed.

The Russian Defense Ministry has many times refuted accusations that the Russian air strikes caused deaths among civilians in Syria. Viktor Bondarev, the commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces, said in mid-March that the Russian warplanes had not missed a single target since the military operation got under way in September last year.

Truce regime in Syria violated 10 times over past day

The Russian center for reconciliation of the warring sides in Syria has registered 10 violations of the ceasefire regime over the past 24 hours, the center said Thursday in a statement posted on the Russian Defense Ministry’s website.

"The regime of cessation of hostilities has been observed in most governorates. Over the past day, 10 violations have been registered [in the governorates of Aleppo, Latakia and Damascus - three in each and one in Idlib]," the document stated.

The center said mortar shelling of the Kurdish self-defense detachments continue in the city of Aleppo in the Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood. Unknown assailants also mortared the town of Al-Fu’ah in the Idlib Governorate, with fire delivered from the area of the Binnish inhabited locality, it said.

Besides, the Ahrar ash-Sham group in the Latakia Governorate shelled from mortars the positions of the government troops in the inhabited localities of Kermel, Sandran and Saraf, the news bulletin said.

"Militants of Jaysh al-Islam thrice opened mortar fire on residential buildings of a Damascus suburb," it said.

Russian and Syrian aircraft have not delivered strikes on armed formations who announced cessation of hostilities, the bulletin said.

The ceasefire regime took effect in Syria on February 27. Shortly before, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution supporting a cessation of hostilities. The document drafted by Russia and the United States was backed by all 15 Security Council member states.

The ceasefire regime does not cover the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations as well as other groups ruled terrorist by the Security Council.

The United Nations has noted that the ceasefire regime, despite separate cases of violations, has been observed on the whole and has led to a considerable reduction of the level of violence in Syria.

Russia’s Aerospace Forces started delivering pinpoint strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations, which are banned in Russia, on September 30, 2015, on a request from Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On March 14, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to start, from March 15, withdrawing the main part of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ group from Syria. Putin said the tasks set before the military "have been fulfilled on the whole." Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said strikes on terrorists will continue to be delivered.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said March 25 that at least 255,000 people have been killed in Syria during the war. Ban called for the soonest possible termination of the conflict and noted the role Russia and the United States play in efforts on peace settlement.

He said 4 million Syrians have become refugees and another 12 million people inside of the country need humanitarian assistance. Ban added that most part of Syria lies in ruins - over 50% of infrastructure has been destroyed.

On March 24, the first round of indirect intra-Syrian talks ended in Geneva. Their participants - a delegation of the Syrian government and a delegation of the opposition - did not meet each other but communicated through special envoy of the UN secretary general on Syria Staffan de Mistura.

Discussions are due to resume in the first half of April.

Russian humanitarian aid reaches six settlements of Latakia province

 Russia has delivered humanitarian aid to six settlements of Syrian Latakia province, an information bulletin of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Warrying Sides in Syria said on Thursday.

It said 4.5 tons of humanitarian aid, mostly food, were handed over to residents of the six settlements.

Earlier reports said that on Thursday, the population of Aleppo province received humanitarian aid for the first time. "Residents of Blat and Kabra settlements, liberated from militants, have received 4.4 tons of food," said the information bulletin posted on the website of the Russian Defense Ministry.

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