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Diplomat points to 'conspiracy of silence' around consequences of US operation in Raqqa

This policy stems from the desire not to discredit the actions of Washington and its allies in Syria, according to Anatoly Viktorov

MOSCOW, February 15. /TASS/. Information about the consequences of the operation in Raqqa conducted by the US-led coalition is being hushed up in the West not to discredit the actions by Washington and its allies in Syria, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights Department and Commissioner for Human rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Anatoly Viktorov told TASS.

"In general, the current situation in the Syrian city of Raqqa and its information coverage (rather, its absence) in the West is another vivid example of double standards in the humanitarian sphere. A ‘conspiracy of silence’ has actually been shaped around this issue," Viktorov noted. "We haven’t heard any public expressions of concern from Europe or the United States over Raqqa last autumn either when the anti-IS coalition was levelling that city to the ground. This policy stems from the desire not to discredit the actions of Washington and its allies in Syria whose presence in that country has no international legal grounds."

Concurrently, attempts continue "to blow things out of proportion and distort the picture of developments around East Ghouta and Idlib, which are part of the de-escalation zones set up in Syria," the diplomat went on to say. "Unconfirmed reports and provocative statements on the use of chemical weapons in these areas of Syria have begun to be replicated just recently, which triggers concern."

Shocking statistics

According to Viktorov, the consequences of the actions by the US-led coalition in Raqqa give rise to serious concern, "actually, this is a humanitarian disaster." "The city has been almost completely destroyed. Some time ago, our counterparts in the Russian Defense Ministry compared Raqqa to Dresden in 1945, and this is not a figure of speech," the diplomat said.

"More than 80% of the buildings in the city have been damaged. Its sizeable part is mine-laden. There is a huge amount of unexploded ordnance. There is no running water supply, while electricity is only delivered to some areas. The epidemic threat is huge," Viktorov noted.

"As for the number of lives lost during the operation, no one can give exact figures, while the official statistics does not exist," the diplomat stressed. According to Viktorov, human rights activists and journalists report that, according to various estimates, from 340 to 520 civilians, including 119 children, were killed during the Battle of Raqqa in June and July 2017 alone. "There are UN data, according to which over 100 people have fallen victim to unexploded munitions since October 2017, while 500 others sustained wounds. Up to 50 injures caused by explosive device blasts are registered every week," he went on to say.

Viktorov noted that "virtually all civilian population had left Raqqa by the time the anti-IS operation ended." "The issue at hand is hundreds of thousands of people. There are no conditions for their return. It is known that large numbers of bodies remain under the rubble," the diplomat stressed.

"Simultaneously, against the backdrop of reports by the US military on terrorists driven out of the city, information came to light on how the forces of the same coalition ensured safe retreat for several hundred ISIL (former name of the Islamic State terror group, outlawed in Russia - TASS) fighters. It is noteworthy that the first reports on the issue appeared on the website of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)," he added.