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NATO chief concerned over Russia's actions in Syria

October 26, 2016, 18:28 UTC+3 BRUSSELS

The West accuses the Russian and Syrian militaries of nonselective bombings of Aleppo, including strikes on hospitals, but Moscow considers the accusations ungrounded

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© Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

BRUSSELS, October 26. /TASS/. NATO is urging Russia to stop strikes on Syria’s Aleppo, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday upon arrival at the North Atlantic alliance’s defense ministerial meeting.

"Russia has the right to operate in international waters. We have seen before the deployment of Russian naval ships and also the Russian carrier group to the Mediterranean. And we have also of course seen before port visits of Russian ships also to NATO ports. So this has happened before," Stoltenberg said.

"The thing which is different this time is that we are concerned about the possibility that the Kuznetsov carrier group can be used as a platform for more attacks against Aleppo and Syria, and thereby exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe we already see in Aleppo and Syria," he said.

"And therefore we are following this more closely and we are concerned about the potential of increased Russian airstrikes against Aleppo," Stoltenberg said.

"It is up to each and every nation, each Ally, to decide and it’s a decision to be taken by individual Allies whether they provide fueling and supplies to Russian ships. But this time I have conveyed a very clear message that we are concerned about the potential use of this carrier group to increase attacks against Aleppo," he said while commenting on refueling of Russian warships in Spain on the way to the Mediterranean.

"It is up to each nation to decide. That has been NATO policy for many, many years. But we are concerned about the potential use of this carrier group to increase attacks on Aleppo. And I know that all Allies are aware of our concerns. And they also expressed concerns themselves regarding the Russian attacks on Aleppo," Stoltenberg said.

The western part of Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, is under control of government forces. The eastern part is held by various armed groups, including militants of the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organization banned in Russia.

According to United Nations assessments, eastern quarters of Aleppo have no more than 8,000 fighters of the opposition and about 900 militants from al-Nusra. The Syrian army is blocking them to force them to leave the city.

The West accuses the Russian and Syrian militaries of nonselective bombings of Aleppo, including strikes on hospitals. Moscow considers the accusations ungrounded. The Russian military say they deliver only targeted strikes on previously verified targets beyond residential neighborhoods.

Humanitarian pauses were on around Aleppo on October 20-22 inclusive, fire was ceased from 08:00 to 19:00. Eight humanitarian corridors were overall opened for withdrawal of militants and civilians from the city.

The aircraft carrier group of the Russian Northern Fleet started an expedition to Northeast Atlantics and the Mediterranean Sea on October 15.

According to the Northern Fleet’s press service, the group includes Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, Russian battlecruiser Pyotr Veliky, large ASW ships Severomorsk and Vice-Admiral Kulakov and supply vessels. The expedition aims to ensure Russia’s naval presence in the World Ocean’s operationally important areas.

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