(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Russia Expresses Serious Concern over Decline in Number of Refugees Leaving Rukban
The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria issued a statement strongly criticizing Washington’s actions in the region, accusing it of turning a blind eye to militants in Rukban using civilians as “human shields”, a move that aggravates the humanitarian situation.
The Center also expressed “serious concern about a decline in the number of refugees leaving the Rukban camp, due to the desire of militants controlled by the United States to keep them as human shields.”
It explained that militants have constantly increased the financial cost of allowing people to move from al-Tanf zone to the Jleb checkpoint, which falls under the control of the Syrian government.
“We draw to the attention of the international community that further retention by the United States and its allies of Syrian territories, the Rukban and al-Hol refugee camps only delays the end of the conflict in Syria, aggravates the criminal situation, hampers the repatriation of Syrians,” the statement added.
Rukban is located within a 55-km so-called deconfliction zone established by the Pentagon with the aim of shielding the Tanf garrison from attacks.
Moscow has repeatedly called for removing the displaced from the camp and announced with the Syrian authorities the establishment of two crossings for refugee exit, but they failed to convince the displaced to go to areas under regime control.
Washington is ignoring the situation, said Chief of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria Major General Viktor Kupchishin, adding that refugees abstain from leaving the camp because of the fuel crisis in the region and the increase in crossing fees imposed by US-affiliated militants.
Washington, in turn, accuses the Russians of blocking access of UN humanitarian aid to the region.
As of June 10, 2019, 13,539 refugees have left the Rukban camp, including 2,842 men, 3,817 women and 6,880 children, according to Russian estimates.
On the other hand, a number of Russian military and security experts believe it is time for the Russian tankers to replace Iranian tankers to cover oil shortage to Syria.
Recently, Vladimir Mukhin wrote in Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper saying escalation by Washington and its allies against Damascus and Tehran by trapping oil tankers will have major repercussions if Moscow does not intervene quickly to settle this issue.
Mukhin viewed the seizure of an Iranian tanker by the British Royal Marines as a plan “carefully organized in Washington and London,” recalling a statement by White House national security adviser John Bolton in which he welcomed Britain’s seizure of the tanker loaded with Iranian oil bound for Syria.
The expert said Moscow is currently facing in Syria a new phase of war against the Syrian regime and Iranian leadership.
He added that aside from the blockade on transferring goods to Syria, the United States has unofficially imposed a ban on the purchase of oil produced in Syrian territories occupied by the US forces, which is an attempt to further stifle the Syrian economy.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that last month, five underwater pipelines in Syrian coastal waters from Tartus to Banias were targeted, resulting in a huge oil spill.
The experts agreed that this was a “sabotage act” carried out by militants close to “one of the major military forces hostile to the Assad regime.”
The newspaper believes Moscow should deal with current developments because it reflects an attempt to intensify the pressure on Damascus and block Russian efforts to normalize the situation in Syria.