Russia claims 23 cease-fire violations in Syria; U.N. diplomat says Assad blocking aid

MOSCOW, Sept. 13 (UPI) — The Russian military said Tuesday the cease-fire in Syria has been violated dozens of times in its first day by U.S.-backed rebels.

The cease-fire agreement was reached last week by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and was viewed by many as a hopeful first step in bringing the five-year Syrian civil war to an end.

The truce took effect Monday and many news reports Tuesday indicated the cease-fire was holding. Other reports cited a Russian military official as saying there have been nearly two dozen violations of the pact.

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“Syrian government forces have completely stopped shelling, except for the areas occupied by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra militants,” Russian military official Viktor Poznikhir said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for armed units of the moderate opposition controlled by the United States. After the start of the cessation of hostilities, by [Tuesday] morning, 23 instances of firing on residential areas and government positions were registered.”

Russia said six people were killed and 10 wounded in Aleppo after the pact took effect.

A key part of the agreement was supposed to allow for uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian aid to war-torn parts of Syria — particularly heavily contested Aleppo. On Tuesday, the United Nations said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime was not allowing that to happen.

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About 20 trucks full of aid are not being allowed into the battle-scarred city, the U.N.’s top Syrian official said — a breach of the cease-fire agreement.

“The trucks are not moving,” U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who has been monitoring the nation’s peace process for months, said Tuesday. “We need to do more homework.”

Video: Russia Ministry of Defense

Peace in Syria, though, is a very challenging prospect — something Russian officials were dramatically reminded of on Tuesday.

As he briefed Russian defense officials on the cease-fire during a live news conference (above video) from Aleppo, Russian Lt. Col. Sergei Kapitsyn was actually shot at during an abrupt burst of gunfire.

If the cease-fire holds for a week, U.S. and Russian forces will begin steps to combine operations to eliminate obstacles to peace — including militants of the Islamic State and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front.

Some are skeptical the cease-fire will last. A previous agreement in February fell apart and several Syrian opposition groups have stated their refusal to accept the new pact.



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