The Kremlin on Tuesday said the future of Syria’s ceasefire will depend on the actions of fighters in Eastern Ghouta, after the Russian military accused them of violating a “humanitarian pause” called by Moscow. “It will depend on how the terrorist groups behave, whether they will open fire, whether provocations from them will continue,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists when asked whether the current daily five-hour pause in fighting will increase.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered a daily “pause” from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm to evacuate civilians from the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, outside Damascus, following a UN Security Council weekend vote to approve a 30-day truce. But the United Nations said Tuesday that fighting raged on in the area, making relief operations impossible. Despite the fighting, the levels of violence were significantly lower than at any point since February 18, when the regime began its assault in the region.
Moscow, which calls the anti-government groups in Eastern Ghouta terrorists, has blamed those groups for not allowing civilians to exit through the established corridor from Eastern Ghouta zone. “At this time there is intense fire from the militants and not a single civilian has come out,” general Viktor Pankov, the Russian officer in charge of the Eastern Ghouta de-escalation zone told Russian agencies. Another Russian officer at the scene, Vladimir Zolotukhin, told state television Tuesday that fighters in Eastern Ghouta have fired 22 times on Damascus over the last 24 hours.