Russia says Syrian Army Advance in Aleppo Boon Not Curse for Civilians

Syrians carry their belongings as they flee clashes between government forces and rebels in Tariq al-Bab and al-Sakhour neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo towards other rebel held besieged areas of Aleppo, Syria November 28, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

MOSCOW, Nov 29 – Russia said on Tuesday that the Syrian army’s breakthrough in Aleppo had dramatically altered the situation on the ground, allowing more than 80,000 civilians to access humanitarian aid after years of being used by militants as human shields.

“During the last 24 hours, thanks to very well-prepared and careful actions, Syrian soldiers were able to radically change the situation,” Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a defence ministry spokesman, said in a statement.

“Practically half of the territory occupied by rebels in recent years in the eastern part of Aleppo has been completely liberated.”

Russia has been helping forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad try to take back full control of the shattered city by providing training, equipment, advice and intermittent air support.

On Monday, the Syrian army and its allies announced the capture of a large swathe of eastern Aleppo from rebels in an accelerating attack that threatens to crush the opposition in its most important urban stronghold.

That advance has stirred concern in the West about the fate of Aleppo’s civilian population.

France on Tuesday called for a United Nations Security Council meeting to try to end hostilities there, and politicians and officials in Britain, Germany and the United States have all spoken of their worry that civilians are being killed.

Konashenkov said assertions about allegedly large civilian losses during the operation were alarmist however and that Moscow was shocked by what he called the West’s “blindness” when it came to assessing the real situation on the ground.

More than 80,000 civilians, including tens of thousands of children, had been able to access Russian humanitarian aid in the form of water, food and medical aid as a result of the military breakthrough, he said.

“These Syrians were used as human shields for long years in Aleppo by terrorists of all allegiances,” said Konashenkov.

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