Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Dozens of Russian marines spotted in Syria's Aleppo city


Russian troops have been seen travelling along Aleppo's flash point Castello Road, and settled into a regime controlled military complex, in the first major movement of Moscow troops inside Syria.
Dozens of Russian marines have been spotted travelling through a flashpoint section of Aleppo city in northern Syria.

Activists said that between 80 and 100 armed Russian troops were spotted heading north on the troubled Castello Road towards regime-controlled sections of the city.

The marines were said to be carrying rifles and in vehicles, but not with heavy weaponry.

'Humanitarian corridors'

But the sight of Russians as far north as Aleppo has surprised many Syrians and commentators.

The Russian troops reportedly arrived in the city by helicopter.

"They are based in officer housing at Aleppo's defence factories," Aleppo24 told The New Arab.

"It was damaged in the fighting but they rebuilt it fast."

Earlier in the day, Russia reportedly submitted a proposal to the United Nations to send troops to Aleppo, believed to be for the establishment of "humanitarian corridors".

It would be the first major deployment of Russian troops outside its bases in Latakia and Tartous, although marines are known to have fought alongside regime forces in smaller numbers in Hama and Homs.

Gulf News reported that the Russian troops would be used to support stretched government forces in the city, manning checkpoints and intelligence centres at regime territories on the Castello Road.

Activists believe the Russian presence might be in preparation for a much touted humanitarian corridor in Aleppo, which few have any idea how they will take shape or if it will be implemented at all.

No trust

Moscow's previous announcements of the opening of "humanitarian corridors" from besieged eastern Aleppo in late July were largely ignored by Syrians.

Many feared the plan was a trap and were already suffering daily bombardment from Russian planes.

Human rights groups and NGOs described Russia's humanitarian corridor plan as "deeply flawed" with the United Nations considering overseeing the humanitarian mission instead of feared Russian and the regime troops.

A rebel offensive in August eventually broke the siege, but the Castello Road out of the rebel-held eastern districts is still considered too dangerous for civilians to pass through.

Russian and US officials have been meeting in Geneva to try iron out an ceasefire agreement.

This would likely include a humanitarian corridor along the Castello Road, but it is questionable if even with US support and acquiescence of rebels this could work given the fear of Aleppo residents about the regime and Russian forces.

The US and Russia have also reportedly agreed to launch joint airstrikes against "extremist groups" in Aleppo - including the Islamic State group.

Russian suggestions of an agreement were swiftly rebutted by Washington, saying there were no plans for joint air strikes.

Rebel forces are fighting IS forces in northern Aleppo province, but rebels have been constant targets of Russian and regime bombs.

Meanwhile, activists reported that cities in northern Syria were suffering another night of devastating bombing by the Russian air force, which activists said included incendiary projectiles.

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