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Russia Urges U.N. to Separate ‘Terrorists’ from ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels

Russia’s U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin gave the U.N. Security Council a draft statement on Tuesday, calling on nations with ties to the legitimate Syrian opposition to make a greater effort to weed out “terrorists.”

“I think what we’re trying to do now is more than just one humanitarian pause, it’s a way to try to find a radical turn for the better for the people of eastern Aleppo,” said Churkin, referring to the very brief bombing pause Russia has scheduled.

The brevity of the Russian pause — either eight or eleven hours, as described by various sources — prompted some Security Council diplomats to say they were “unlikely to support the Russian statement,” according to the Associated Press. The U.N. believes a pause of at least 48 hours would be needed to move significant humanitarian aid into Aleppo.

ABC News reports that “several residents of the besieged part of Aleppo say that leaving is not a real option and that they view the cease-fire as a media stunt.”

These residents noted that ground fighting continues, even as aerial bombardment pauses, and Syrian government troops are still trying to push into the city.

“We don’t feel like leaving our homes and becoming refugees. None of my friends are considering leaving,” one Aleppo resident declared.

Analyst Firas Abi Ali told ABC News the bombing pause could be even worse than a media stunt:

This is Russia paving the way for the use of even more lethal force against Aleppo, because it can claim that it gave civilians and moderates the chance to leave the city. Obviously, this takes no account of people who have nowhere else to go, and of moderates who do not want to surrender Aleppo to Assad. I expect more severe and indiscriminate bombardment after the cease-fire.

Ali is not inventing these suspicions out of thin air. As ABC points out, that’s exactly what Moscow did to the Chechen separatists of Grozny 16 years ago.

A similar tactic may lie behind Russia’s sudden determination to separate “moderate” and “legitimate” Syrian rebels from “terrorists.” In the past, Russia has treated them all as terrorists, a charge their client Bashar Assad repeats endlessly. (In fact, he was at it again Wednesday, justifying the saturation bombing of Aleppo by saying the city is “under the control of terrorists,” which his government has a “self-evident” duty to attack.)

An opening for some groups to separate themselves from the “terrorists” could be a prelude for even more intense action against every rebel who does not take advantage of that opening.

Russia is also very keen on pressuring the U.S. and its allies to give up on ousting Assad and team up with Syria and Russia to fight terrorists. Of course, their diplomatic maneuvers are supported by the fact that some elements of the Syrian insurrection indisputably are terrorists, no matter how often they change their names to distance themselves from hardcore terrorist powers like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

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