Moscow:Moscow says Russian and Syrian aircraft have not carried out any sorties over Aleppo for nine days in line with their "humanitarian pause."
The Russian Defense Ministry responded on Thursday a day after a monitoring group sympathetic to militants claimed that airstrikes had killed at least 26 people in a village in Idlib.
Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin challenged the UN and the West to provide evidence of continuing airstrikes in Aleppo.
Churkin said no aircraft has approached the city at a distance of less than 10 km since a unilateral moratorium was announced by Russia and Syria on October 18 "in response to the UN call, and as a goodwill gesture."
"If you have any information that there were any missile and bomb strikes, please provide this information," Churkin said, adding he expected an "objective analysis" of the current situation.
Churkin also criticized the UN for failing "to thrash out in a proper way the operation on evacuation of the sick and injured people."
"The UN staff members have failed to exert required pressure on patrons of the illegal armed units so that the militants could cooperate with humanitarian workers."
The Russian ambassador also hit out at UN aid envoy Stephen O'Brien for bias and arrogance after claiming that Aleppo had become a "kill zone" under Russian and Syrian bombs.
The US, Britain and France rushed to his defense in one of the stormiest council sessions in weeks after Churkin accused O'Brien of failing to recognize that Russia and Syria had declared a humanitarian pause.
Churkin criticized the UN official for failing to present the facts objectively while foreign-backed rebels and al-Qaeda-linked terrorists are hampering a UN plan to evacuate the wounded from Aleppo.
"Please leave this kind of report to a novel that you might write one day," the Russian ambassador told the UN official.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry said Takfiri militants continue to indiscriminately target residential neighborhoods of Aleppo, using makeshift rocket launchers, and preventing civilians from leaving the city's militant-held east.
“Aircraft of the Russian aerospace forces and the Syrian air force have not been carrying out any flight closer than the 10-kilometer zone around the city of Aleppo for nine days,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
Warships won’t join Aleppo campaign
The Foreign Ministry also dismissed as absurd suggestions from NATO that a new Russian battle group heading to the Mediterranean would join the campaign against terrorists in Aleppo.
The rebuttal came after NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on Tuesday that the ships could be used to launch more airstrikes.
Andrei Kelin, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official, told the RIA news agency that Stoltenberg's statement was unhelpful.
"The concerns are not based on anything as our planes have not come near Aleppo for nine days. Our battle group is in the Mediterranean. Our ships have always had a presence there," said Kelin.
Meanwhile, Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Ja'afari denounced double standards towards the ongoing conflict in his country.
Ja'afari lashed out at the US for supporting the so-called moderate militants in eastern Aleppo. He said Takfiri terrorists are now in possession of US-built rockets.
He also slammed Turkey's aggressive policies toward Syria amid US support, saying it violated the basics of international law.
Ja'afari said Saudi Arabia – another key ally of the West – is supporting terrorism while Wahhabi muftis are fanning the flames of bloodshed in Syria, Iraq and Yemen through their decrees.
The entire Syrian population, he said, is suffering from the militancy being sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Israel.
Ja'afari called on all members of the UN Security Council to exercise their responsibilities concerning the establishment of security and peace across the globe.
No Russian, Syrian role in ‘air raid’ on Idlib school
In another development on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, rejected as “a lie” claims that Russian and Syrian warplanes had conducted fatal air raids in the northwestern province of Idlib.
She was reacting to reports that 22 children and six teachers were killed in airstrikes that hit a school and nearby areas in Idlib.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed “warplanes — either Russian or Syrian — carried out six strikes” in the Idlib village of Hass, where the school is located.
Zakharova further stressed “the Russian Federation has nothing to do with this terrible tragedy, with this attack,” adding that Moscow has called for an immediate investigation into the incident.
Commenting on the reports on Idlib airstrikes earlier in the day, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said “it’s horrible, horrible. I hope we were not involved.”
“It’s easy for me to say ‘no’ but I’m a responsible person. I need to see what our Defense Ministry is going to say,” he added.
The Russian Defense Ministry also said in a Thursday statement that it had sent a drone to investigate the reported incident in Idlib, adding, however, that there was no evidence of an airstrike in the images taken by the aircraft.
Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Moscow has analyzed the photos and videos provided by Western media outlets as “evidence” of the so-called air raid.
“The video published in a range of Western media outlets appears to consist of more than 10 different shots, filmed at different times of the day, and in different resolutions that were edited into a single clip,” stated Konashenkov.
“The photograph published by AFP shows that only one wall of the school is damaged, and all the desks inside the classroom are in place. The outer fence seen through the hole has no traces of damage from bomb fragments. In a genuine airstrike this is physically impossible – the furniture would have been swept away by the blast wave, and there would have been damage marks on the classroom wall and the outer fence,” he added.
The air raid was initially reported on Wednesday by sources linked to foreign-backed militants in Syria, including the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) later said that it had received reports of an attack on the school, with its executive director, Anthony Lake, called the incident a “tragedy” and an “outrage.”
Konashenkov further said “our evidence points to UNICEF falling victim to another scam,” urging the UN body to “check its sources more carefully “ to protect its reputation.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.