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Accusations of Russia’s alleged crimes in Syria are part of media war, says UN envoy

According to the diplomat, the evidential base for the accusations often comes from unidentified and non-trustworthy sources

MOSCOW, May 18. /TASS/. Accusations hurled at Russia for alleged military crimes in Syria are part of information warfare, Russia’s UN envoy, Vasily Nebenzya said in an interview with the Kommersant daily.

"There are many things we are accused of. Not only as concerns Syria. Regretfully, this is part of a war. A media war," the diplomat stressed.

As for accusations against Russia’s armed forces from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Nebenzya said that the Russian foreign and defense ministries had repeatedly refuted them. "First of all, often the evidential base of these accusations is unidentified sources. In fact, these sources are familiar — experts in fakes from the White Helmets organization and others like them," he explained.

"We are not afraid of an honest conversation and we explain in detail to our partners how thoroughly the targets are chosen in counterterrorism actions. We even held a special news conference at the UN sharing the disproving photo- and video data. However, certain things, like allegedly intercepted conversations of Aerospace Forces’ pilots are so absurd that it is ridiculous to comment on them," Nebenzya emphasized.

Cross-border aid mechanism

Moscow will be guided by the interests of the Syrian people when the issue of the extension of the cross-border aid delivery mechanism is discussed at the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya indicated.

The mechanism was established in 2014 as an emergency and temporary measure, he noted. "All the Security Council members agreed with that back then. When parameters of the cross-border aid mechanism are discussed we will be guided by the concrete humanitarian needs of the population and the situation on the ground that have changed considerably since 2014," he stressed.

According to the Russian diplomat, Western nations insist on the extension of the mechanism to preserve the status quo. "The West is satisfied with it for a number of reasons. Some Syrian territories are controlled by terrorists, others are occupied by the United States, some are ruled by administrations that are not controlled by the Syrian authorities," he noted.

According to Nebenzya, humanitarian assistance can be provided to all those in need "by means of regular, not emergency channels." So, in his words, plans to keep the cross-border aid mechanism in place at any cost give grounds to questions. Apart from that, he stressed that humanitarian operations must be coordinated with the legitimate authorities of the recipient country.

"Some humanitarian organizations, such as the authoritative World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN Population Fund and a number of Western non-governmental organizations, cooperate with the authorities working in Syria," Nebenzya said. "Most of the humanitarian aid to Syria comes to the country through dialogue with the Syrian authorities."

"We understood that conditions in Idlib were quite severe in the winter and it would have been difficult for people to survive without cross-border aid. We were guided by humanitarian considerations and agreed to extend the mechanism in the northwest this January," he said. "So, there is nothing to accuse Russia of, let us be objective."

Commenting on the West’s allegations that Moscow is biased against this mechanism, the Russian diplomat drew attention to the fact that the Western partners are still opting not to see the consequences of the sanctions against Damascus. "The Syrian authorities are unable to buy essential medical equipment and non-governmental organizations cannot tap their full potential out of fear to fall under sanctions," he explained.

The decision to launch cross-border humanitarian assistance to Syria was passed in July 2014 as a response measure to the dramatic decrease in access to the population because of heated hostilities. Thus, Resolution 2165 stipulates the establishment of several checkpoints at Syria’s borders and the deployment of a United Nations monitoring mission to inspect incoming cargoes to prevent weapons supplies.

In January 2020, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution extending the cross-border aid mechanism for six months but reducing the number of checkpoints from four to two.

Moscow has repeatedly called for the complete winding up of the mechanism as violating the country’s sovereignty.