Russia is trying to block a UN resolution that would establish a 30-day ceasefire and allow for humanitarian deliveries into Syria’s eastern Ghouta province, close to Damascus.
A new wave of bombs struck Syria’s eastern Ghouta unabated on February 23 ahead of an imminent UN Security Council vote to impose a 30-day ceasefire across the country.
Moscow’s envoy to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, had earlier told an emergency meeting of the security council on the situation in eastern Ghouta that Russia would not support a ceasefire resolution put forward by Sweden and Kuwait, calling it “unrealistic”.
Nebenzia said the widespread reporting of heavy civilian casualties in the besieged area was a product of “mass psychosis”.
For the sixth straight day, warplanes have pounded the densely populated agricultural pocket east of the capital, the last rebel bastion near Damascus. The recent escalation of fighting has killed at least 426 people and injured hundreds more, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says.
The dead include at least 98 children.
Moscow has vetoed 10 previous UN resolutions on Syria and has consistently used its permanent seat on the security council to shield its close ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, from concerted UN action on war crimes. In November, Russia used its veto to block the resumption of a UN investigation into the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces.
On February 22, Nebenzia made clear that Russian support for Assad would continue and portrayed the accounts and video footage of heavy civilian casualties in the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta as “fake news”.
Nebenzia replied that the reports of Syrian forces and their backers bombing health facilities were “a well-known tactic in information warfare”.
Other security council envoys rejected the Russian suggestion that the bombing of civilians in eastern Ghouta was necessary for counter-terrorism with the US’ Nikki Haley saying “It is simply preposterous to claim that these attacks on civilians have anything to do with fighting terrorism.”
The UN Security Council is considering a resolution demanding “a cessation of hostilities throughout Syria for all military operations” for 30 days to allow aid deliveries and medical evacuations.
The vote is set to take place on Friday. The resolution does not cover the groups Islamic State, al Qaeda and the Nusra Front, which Moscow and Damascus say they have targeted in eastern Ghouta.