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Today the Syria Solidarity Campaign, Syrians and supporters of Syria are here to protest again against Russia’s war crimes in Aleppo. Since mid-November, there has been a renewed Russian offensive against Eastern Aleppo. Over 279,000 people were already under siege in Eastern Aleppo. That means no food and no medicine can get in. Russia, in partnership with the dictator Assad, decided to compound this mass starvation by a renewed mass bombing campaign. Together, Russia and Assad have conducted over 2,000 airstrikes between November 15th and November 28th. This includes firing cluster munitions to maximise the carnage and chlorine gas cylinders to suffocate people. They have bombed all of Eastern Aleppo’s hospitals. Recently, an ambulance driver in Eastern Aleppo said: “It’s Armageddon out there. Bombs are falling every single second, and people are literally dying in the streets…In the past 15 minutes, more than 10 barrel bombs have fallen in the immediate vicinity, and it’s been going on all day long just like this.”[1]

For more than a year now, Russia has been launching unguided bombs in Syria, with devastating consequences. Russian forces are responsible for 3.3% of civilian casualties in Syria since their incursion into the conflict to support the dictator Bashar Al Assad, more than ISIS, the supposed target of Russian forces. On November 30th, more than 45 residents of Eastern Aleppo were killed and more than 50 injured by indiscriminate shelling as they fled the bombings. Most were women and children. Even rats get better treatment than this. As a result of Russia’s joint assault on Eastern Aleppo with Assad, 50,000 people have fled the bombings in Eastern Aleppo. Many residents who have fled Eastern Aleppo have gone missing.

What is new about this campaign is that in addition to bombing with fighter planes, they are also launching ballistic missiles from the Mediterranean into Aleppo. They are also now launching fighter jets off their only aircraft carrier, which is now sitting in the Mediterranean Sea. This is an aircraft carrier, accompanied by other naval ships, that sailed right past us in the English Channel. Finally, few people know that Russia is not just participating in an air war. It also has a significant presence on the ground via military advisers and illegally-hired private Russian mercenaries to support the dictator Assad, along with many other militias paid by Iran, and along with the terrorist group Hezbollah.

The truth of the matter is, Russia believes it will not be held accountable for any war crime it commits in Syria. Not by the international community or by its own people. And so far it hasn’t. We thought things were starting to change. In September, the UK Ambassador to the UN openly accused Russia of war crimes at a UN Security Council Session. On October 28th, Russia failed to win election to the UN Human Rights Council, the first time that a permanent member of the UN Security Council failed to get elected to the Human Rights Council since it was formed. But nothing has changed for civilians being bombed in Eastern Aleppo and on December 1st, a group of over 200 civil society groups condemned the UN over its inaction on war crimes committed in Syria.[2]

We want to the war criminals to be punished for their crimes against humanity. We want to the UN General Assembly to use the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 377 A, “Uniting for Peace”, to override the UN Security Council and refer Russia and Assad to the International Criminal Court. We want to see protection of civilians in general and in Aleppo in particular. We want the UK and other governments to aid drop humanitarian aid into Eastern Aleppo and the many other areas of Syria under siege. We want the UK, the EU, and other governments to impose sanctions on all Russian individuals and companies involved in Syria.[3] And we want the United States to end to the ban of anti-aircraft missiles for the Syrian opposition. Syrians have a right to self-defence in the face of genocide.

[1] As reported in http://syriadirect.org/news/east-aleppo-ambulance-driver-on-scale-of-devastation-%E2%80%98you%E2%80%99ve-got-no-idea%E2%80%99/

[2] Press release: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/syria-over-200-civil-society-groups-condemn-united-nations-shameful-inaction#.WEBWEoG1pZU.twitter

[3] For example, the names of some members of Russian forces operating in Syria has been published by Ukrainian activists: https://informnapalm.org/en/russian-bombs-civilians/

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