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Russian envoy tells UN Security Council fighting in eastern Aleppo 'has stopped'

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-12-14 09:11
Russian envoy tells UN Security Council fighting in eastern Aleppo 'has stopped'

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin addresses the United Nations Security Council during a high level meeting on Syria at the United Nations in Manhattan, New York, US, September 25, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS - During a dramatic emergency UN Security Council meeting on Syria, the Russian UN ambassador announced that the fighting has ended in eastern Aleppo and that the Syrian government was back in control.

"The removal of the fighters was achieved a few hours ago," Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the 15-nation UN body on Tuesday.

The council session opened with an impassioned plea from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his last weeks on the job, for a cessation of hostilities to allow humanitarian aid.

But then the Russian ambassador brought his own news.

"The Syrian government has established control over east Aleppo so now the stage has come for practical humanitarian initiatives that the population that remains there should not need to leave," Churkin said.

With the conclusion of fighting, the Moscow envoy said, "Let's hope that this indeed will be a precondition for establishing the political efforts, re-launching of negotiations" as called for by Staffan de Mistura, the special Syria envoy of Ban.

"There should be large scale humanitarian support to those people of eastern Aleppo and to those people who have left the city and those who remain in the city and establish the preconditions so that those who left the city will as soon as possible be able to come back to their homes," Churkin said.

At the opening of the meeting, the secretary-general said, "During the last 48 hours, we have seen an almost complete collapse of armed opposition front lines, leaving them with only five percent of their original territory in the city. This came about after levels of bombardment that many witnesses describe as unprecedented."

"Civilian deaths and injuries continue at a brutal pace as the United Nations received credible reports of scores of civilians being killed either by intense bombardment or summary executions by pro-Government forces," he said. "We have seen shocking videos of a body burning in the street, ostensibly after aerial bombardment."

Ban added that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights "received reports of civilians, including women and children, in four neighborhoods being rounded up and executed."

Churkin earlier had questioned the validity of such reports when there was no access for UN humanitarian workers. He said representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross could not validate such reports.

At times, before Churkin's announcement, the council session was highly emotional among those ambassadors calling for a halt in fighting to allow humanitarian access.

"This is a dark day for the people of Aleppo, surely the darkest of the past five years," said Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of Britain.

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