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16 Dec, 2016 00:48

UK & US claim Russia ‘preventing’ Aleppo aid as Red Cross & UN speak of close cooperation

As Moscow is wondering why there is no aid coming to Syria from the US and the EU, despite statements on civilians’ plight in Aleppo, the UK and US defense ministers allege that Russia is hampering humanitarian action. The Red Cross and the UN say the opposite.

READ MORE: ‘You haven’t succeeded once’: AP reporter grills State Dept on lack of progress in Syria (VIDEO)

RT’s Anastasia Churkina asked UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon and US Defense Secretary Ash Carter to comment on their governments’ claims that Russia is preventing humanitarian aid deliveries to Aleppo. The two spoke to reporters at a news conference following a London meeting of defense ministers on Syria.

“We’ve been trying to get food and medicines and other humanitarian aid into Aleppo since the summer and we had absolutely zero cooperation from Russia,” Fallon said.

“On the contrary, we’ve seen aid convoys attacked and we’ve seen hospitals bombed and a barbaric attitude to the plight of civilians in Aleppo,” he added.

Carter sided with Fallon in blaming the Syrian government and Russia for their failing aid deliveries.

“The international community, the United Nations have been trying to get humanitarian aid and there is no reason why it can’t be done. But it has not been done because the regime and the Russians have not permitted it to be done,” Carter alleged.

The allegations contradicted the statement earlier made by the UN humanitarian adviser on Syria, Jan Egeland, who welcomed Russia’s cooperation during the ongoing withdrawal of militants from Aleppo.

“We are now getting around the clock help from the Russian military and we think we will be able to monitor and assist those evacuations that should follow,” Egeland said.

The peaceful withdrawal of the remaining armed groups from Aleppo, which is now almost completely controlled by the Syrian government, was pushed through by Moscow and Damascus.

The operation has been carried out with the help of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Red Crescent organizations, which have been able to operate in the city unhampered.

Robert Mardini, Red Cross Regional Director for the Middle East, told RT that the humanitarian action it is performing in Aleppo is large-scale.

“We have a dozen of ICRC colleagues and close to hundred Syrian Red Crescent volunteers, 13 ambulances, four ICRC cars and more than 20 buses, who carried out these evacuations. From eastern Aleppo towards western or rural Aleppo where the people were able to get treatment,” Mardini said.

Mardini also turned down claims coming from the so-called White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that the buses with evacuated fighters, their families and the wounded were attacked by the government forces. The allegations were quickly picked up by the western media despite no evidence of the attack.

“My colleagues were able to supervise the entire evacuation and nobody was hurt and it went smoothly. This is what we got from our colleagues and we’re very satisfied with the outcome,” the Red Cross official said.

Moscow has for months been asking for western aid to be delivered to government and militant-held areas of Aleppo. On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry has again called on the UN to swiftly join efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.    

“We are urging relevant UN humanitarian structures to actively and immediately engage in the provision of the much-needed humanitarian assistance to Syrians, in particular, the residents of Aleppo, liberated from gangs of terrorists and extremists,” it said a statement.

The ministry branded as “unacceptable” the current situation, in which he claimed some senior officials in the UN Secretariat have become part of the Western propaganda campaign against the Russian and Syrian anti-terrorist efforts.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Defense Ministry expressed regret that all appeals to the West and international organizations to send the promised humanitarian aid to Aleppo were ignored.

“Instead of assistance to Syrians, there was only silence, or some excuses based on alleged ‘security threats,’” the ministry’s spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement.

Aleppo has been divided between the government forces and the militants since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.

However, in recent weeks, the Syrian Army has made significant gains in eastern Aleppo and is close to liberating all the occupied neighborhoods from the militants. The successful offensive allowed thousands of people to flee the area and receive humanitarian assistance from the Russian and Syrian military.