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Russia rejects war crime claims saying ceasefire helps terrorists

Terrorists are using the cover of the Syrian ceasefire to rearm, Russia said.

Published: 27th September 2016 08:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th September 2016 10:01 AM   |  A+A-

MOSCOW/BEIRUT: Terrorists are using the cover of the Syrian ceasefire to rearm, Russia said yesterday (Monday), as it hit back at US and British accusations of "war crimes" in Aleppo.

"Terrorists are using the ceasefire regime to regroup, to replenish their arsenals and for obvious preparations to carry out attacks," Mr Peskov said.

He also lashed out at British and American diplomats who accused Moscow of "barbarism" over its ongoing bombardment of the Syrian city of Aleppo. "We note the overall unacceptable tone and rhetoric of the representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States, which can damage and harm our relations," said Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's spokesman.

Matthew Rycroft, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, accused Russia of "partnering with the Syrian regime to carry out war crimes," during a bitter meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Sunday.

Russian officials said yesterday that Western powers had failed to live up to their responsibilities on Syria and said previous truces had provided cover for terrorists to regroup.

Syria's foreign minister said a US-Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement was still viable and that his administration was prepared to take part in a unity government. Walid al-Moallem said in a television interview that continuing contacts between Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and John Kerry, the US secretary of state, meant that the agreement is not yet dead.

The latest rupture in Moscow's relations with the West came as a fresh wave of Russian and Syria regime air strikes battered opposition-held eastern districts of Aleppo, in what medical workers there called the worst bombing in five years of war.

Russian and Syrian aircraft have unleashed a ferocious series of air strikes on eastern Aleppo since Thursday, including with so-called "bunker-busting" bombs that destroy underground shelters used by civilians and hospitals.

Medics inside eastern Aleppo told The Daily Telegraph that at least 95 people died in bombing on Saturday alone. About half of the casualties suffered since the bombing campaign began on Thursday have been children.

The Syrian government says the objective of the current onslaught is to finally retake Aleppo, a stronghold of the opposition since war broke out in 2011.

However, military and regional experts said the attempt to take eastern Aleppo by force could take months.

Mr Assad's army is reportedly short on manpower and heavily reliant on ground troops supplied by allies like Hizbollah and Liwa al-Quds, a Palestinian group. Both groups account for a significant minority of the pro-government forces around Aleppo.

Chris Doyle, director of Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the Syrian regime faced a "war of attrition" in its attempt to retake the city.

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