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London fails to prove claims of Moscow’s deliberate strikes on Syrian civilians — diplomat

According to Russia's Ambassador to the UK, the response received by Moscow is that the British side is not in possession of such evidence

LONDON, October 17. /TASS/. The UK Foreign Office has failed to provide any proof that backs the accusations by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, claiming that Moscow’s airstrikes are deliberately aimed against civilians in Syria, Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko said in an open letter to the members of the UK parliament published on the embassy’s website.

Accusations with no grounds

"Members of Parliament with no grounds whatsoever accused Russia, along with the Syrian government, of deliberate strikes against civilians, which the Foreign Secretary tried to qualify as "war crimes," the letter says. "10 days ago the Russian Embassy formally requested the Foreign Office to provide the proof that supports these allegations of Boris Johnson."

According to the letter, "the whole point of the response received by us is that the British side is not in possession of such evidence." "Moreover, speaking in Parliament and accusing us of the strike at the UN humanitarian convoy near Aleppo, Boris Johnson referred to the information in the social networks," Yakovenko stressed. "That is bizarre, since serious accusations must be supported by strong evidence. The Embassy also requested the Foreign Office to send us this information from those social networks used by the British government. We are waiting for a reply."

A decisive refusal

Yakovenko pointed out that "the British side is constantly accusing us of strikes 'not at the right targets' though Russia believed otherwise. The ambassador added that a year ago he "personally met the then Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond and officially requested cooperation in establishing contacts with the Free Syrian Army, as well as in coordination between our militaries in targeting which would allow take possible British concerns into account."

"The Russian side received a decisive refusal to those proposals. Later, I repeatedly raised this issue at various official levels - the answer was always negative. I should add that our military has also requested information on areas, where the British Special Forces operate in Syria, in order to avoid possible casualties among them as a result of the Russian Air Forces actions. This was also met with silence," the Russian ambassador said.

A lack of an integrated vision

Yakovenko noted that he fully shared "the concern voiced over various aspects of the humanitarian situation in that country, including in relation to Aleppo, but not only its eastern part." At the same time, in his words, "the debate has left the feeling that there is a lack of an integrated vision of the Syrian situation and its genesis."

The Russian diplomat stated that "the Syrian crisis that began 5 years ago the armed opposition to the legitimate authorities has been actively nurtured by external sponsors. Two thirds of the country’s territory came under the control of these factions, of which the main striking force turned out to be the terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and "Jabhat al-Nusra" [both outlawed in Russia]. They were about to take Damascus, which would have led to the creation of a terrorist state in the territory of Syria that would be a direct threat to the security of Russia and the whole of Europe."

"Russia’s intervention a year ago helped reverse this trend military-wise," the ambassador stressed. "Since then 35 thousand terrorists, most of whom were foreigners, have been destroyed, a truce at the local level with 783 settlements has been reached with the assistance of the Russian military who established the Center for the Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides." Yakovenko noted that at the same time Russia had been "working hard with the United States within the framework of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), as well as on a bilateral basis in order to ensure a sustainable ceasefire and transition to a political settlement in Syria."

The fight against terrorism

"We are committed to the fight against terrorism, and will not "run out of this road". In their speeches MPs rightly focused on the humanitarian situation, especially in the eastern part of Aleppo. But the atrocities committed by the terrorists against the population of Western Aleppo, Damascus, and other Syrian cities were left out of the picture. Unfortunately, the British media keep silent on that. Furthermore, it is presented in a distorted way," the Russian ambassador noted.

Yakovenko added that he had been "surprised why the United Kingdom did not support the proposal of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Syria Staffan de Mistura to allow al-Nusra fighters out of the Eastern Aleppo and thereby ensure a sustainable ceasefire and humanitarian access to all those in need, and ultimately, normalize the situation in the whole of Aleppo." According to the Russian diplomat, "if a significant number of those fighters with weapons could be withdrawn from Aleppo, that would alleviate the sufferings of all who are held in this part of the city as hostages."