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Moscow confirms role in brutal Eastern Ghouta offensive Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Moscow confirms role in brutal Eastern Ghouta offensive

Russia is a key ally of the Assad regime [AFP]

Date of publication: 15 March, 2018

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Moscow confirmed its military is playing a role in the brutal assault in the Syrian rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on Thursday.

Moscow said it was committed to helping Syria's regime "finish off" rebels in Eastern Ghouta, confirming its military is playing a role in the assault on the rebel enclave on Thursday. 

Russia has provided few details of its involvement in the offensive on Ghouta but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov left no doubt Moscow's forces were taking an active part. 

"We will continue fighting terrorists, we will finish them off, we will help finish them off in Eastern Ghouta, where the Syrian army is now conducting operations with our support," he said. 

Since President Vladimir Putin ordered the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria late last year, the military has released little information about its involvement. 

Moscow has been overseeing efforts to evacuate civilians out of the Eastern Ghouta enclave near Damascus through a humanitarian corridor.

It has labelled rebel groups from that area "terrorists" who are not protected under the current ceasefire.

Eastern Ghouta has been the target of a blistering government assault for the past month, causing a humanitarian emergency. The offensive, backed by bombing, has split the enclave into three sections.

But the Syrian Observatory monitor has blamed both Damascus and Moscow for massive civilian casualties in Eastern Ghouta, though Russia has never admitted to participating in the bombing.

UN and Western officials have also criticised the Syrian regime and Russia for continuing its bombardment of the rebel-held enclave, describing it as an orchestrated apocalypse.

At least 1,220 civilians have died since the regime offensive began last month.

Many residents expect Eastern Ghouta to follow a similar trajectory as Eastern Aleppo, which fell to regime forces in 2016 following airstrikes and a ground offensive.

Syrian regime forces have recaptured more than 60 percent of Eastern Ghouta since launching their offensive. 

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