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Russia expects unbiased assessment of crimes in Aleppo from international community

December 27, 2016, 15:03 UTC+3
Moscow sees the liberation of Aleppo as an important step aimed at settling the situation in Syria
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© Timur Abdullayev/News Team/TASS

MOSCOW, December 27. /TASS/. Russia hopes that the international community will give an impartial assessment of terrorists’ crimes in Aleppo, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told a press briefing on Tuesday.

"Syrians took to Aleppo streets to celebrate the city’s liberation congratulating each other on the victory and thanking Russian and Syrian servicemen," the diplomat noted. "However, that was a holiday with tears in one’s eyes. We continue to learn new details of what happened in Aleppo when it was controlled by terrorists and extremists. In particular, mass graves containing the remains of dozens of people have been found there. What’s more, it turned out that these people had been tortured."

"There is every reason to believe that these terrible discoveries will continue," Zakharova said. She noted that "evidence of these crimes will be handed over to media by the Russian military and made public." "We hope that the international community will provide an impartial assessment of this bloody carnage, when Syrian citizens were subjected to torture and violence by extremists and terrorists," the diplomat stressed.

On liberation of Aleppo

Moscow sees the liberation of Aleppo as an important step aimed at settling the situation in Syria while preserving its state institutions and territorial integrity, Zakharova said.

"On December 22, Syrian troops seized the last quarters of eastern Aleppo that had remained under militants’ control. The militants had been evacuated from those districts. The Syrian Army Command announced that the city had been fully cleared of extremists and security had been restored," the spokeswoman pointed out.

"We believe the liberation of Aleppo from militants to be an important step aimed at settling the situation in Syria while preserving the country’s unity and territorial integrity and preventing the Syrian state institutions from degrading," Zakharova said.

According to her, although the militants destroyed many buildings, planted mines in many infrastructure facilities and left a large amount of ammunition, civilians in Aleppo have been gradually returning to peaceful life.

On Boris Johnson's statement

Zakharova said that it was undiplomatic and unprofessional of British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to say that the Syrian government army’s claiming full control of Aleppo was a ‘hollow victory.’

Johnson claimed earlier the United Nations had not yet been given access to eastern Aleppo, she reminded. "He also said that the Syrian army’s control over Aleppo doesn’t mean victory as [Syrian President Bashar] Assad depends on foreign military groups and Russia’s air support," she said.

"I’d refrain from commenting on his words that Assad is to go," Zakharova said. "If Mr. Johnson happens not to know, this is what is being said only by the most frenzied opposition and militants whereas his colleagues changed their vocabulary on that topic long ago."

"Judging by the statements made by the British colleague, he has little idea of what is going on there," the Russian diplomat stressed. "I’d like to clarify the real state of things as for the situation with humanitarian monitoring in Aleppo, including in the context of the implementation of the United Nation Security Council’s recently passed Resolution 2328 on that matter."

Even before this resolution was passed, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the World Health Organization took effort to offer humanitarian assistance to the Syrian population. "Notably, we repeatedly spoke in favor of the United Nations participation in these efforts," she noted. "Corresponding structures joined the work back on December 15."

"As of today, United Nations has more than 100 people in Aleppo, with more than 30 of them acting in the eastern part of the city," Zakharova noted. "More employees are expected to be commissioned. It seems strange that Mr. Johnson either doesn’t know that or pretends not to know that."

"Well, Boris Johnson is not a professional diplomat, but listen, I have never thought he is that unprofessional," she stressed.

Johnson claimed earlier the United Nations had not yet been given access to eastern Aleppo, she reminded. "He also said that the Syrian army’s control over Aleppo doesn’t mean victory as [Syrian President Bashar] Assad depends on foreign military groups and Russia’s air support," she said.

"Boris Johnson is not a professional diplomat, but listen, I have never thought he is that unprofessional," she stressed.

Russia is calling on the West to take real steps to prevent the supplies of weapons to terrorists in Syria, Zakharova stressed.

"I call on our Euro Atlantic critics to talk less and switch more to taking real measures on preventing the arms supplies to terrorists," the diplomat stressed. "As for deaths of innocent people, which our partners like to mention, let’s remember what weapons are used to kill them," she added.

On situation in Mosul

Zakharova also commented on the situation in Mosul. The diplomat recalled that more than two months had passed since the beginning of the operation to recapture Iraq’s Mosul from terrorists. "The situation (in Mosul) is still very far from solution. Islamic State militants (members of a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) still retain the western part of the city on the right bank and about 20% percent of the territory in the east on the left bank," she said. "They continue to control more than half of the Nineveh province, and Mosul is its administrative center."

"Of course, this situation in no way depreciates the efforts of the Iraqi military, militia fighters and members of the Kurdish groups," Zakharova added. "They have done a great deal to liberate Iraq’s territory from Islamic State militants. We welcome their further steps in this direction, no matter how difficult they are." She confirmed that Russia will continue to provide practical support to friendly Iraq.

She noted though that civilians should not become "a bargaining chip in light of counterterrorism activities." "The number of victims of artillery bombardments and bombing raids by the US-led anti-IS coalition is growing rapidly," the diplomat said.

Zakharova pointed to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Mosul expressing the view that the assistance provided by UN agencies is not enough. "According to the Iraqi authorities, the number of civilians who have fled Mosul has risen to 125,000 people," she said. "The situation continues to be dire."

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