U.S. Accuses Russia of ‘Barbarism’ and War Crimes in Syria

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The United States accused Russia of “barbarism” and war crimes in Syria on Sunday as Moscow’s airstrikes over Aleppo pushed a humanitarian crisis there to new depths.

The nations sparred verbally at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting called to demand that Russia rein in its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and halt the blistering attacks on Syria’s second city.

“Instead of pursuing peace, Russia and Assad make war,” said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counter-terrorism. It is barbarism.”

A Sept. 9 cease-fire deal guaranteed by the United States and Russia was smashed a week ago by Russian and Syrian airstrikes on a U.N. aid convoy. Despite frantic diplomacy to get that truce back on track, Sunday’s Security Council meeting suggested that divisions between the two sides were deepening.

“Instead of helping get lifesaving aid to civilians, Russia and Assad are bombing the humanitarian convoys, hospitals and first responders who are trying desperately to keep people alive,” Power said.

But Russia’s representative, Vitaly Churkin, instead blamed his American counterparts for the return to fighting and insisted Assad’s forces had shown “admirable restraint.”

“I just need to explain what working with our American colleagues is like,” he said, telling the 15-member council that Washington had failed to rein in violence by the rebel forces it backs in Syria. “Bringing a peace is almost an impossible task now,” he said.

As the war of words unfolded in New York, Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern neighborhoods were being shaken by the most ferocious aerial attacks there in recent memory. A provisional death toll provided by local nongovernmental organizations suggested at least 85 people had been killed there since early Sunday.

“This is the worst day,” said Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, an English teacher living close to the city’s front line. “The people here are psychologically broken.”

The latest attacks have appeared to target what resources the eastern neighborhoods have left. Branches of at least three rescue teams have been hit by airstrikes, and firetrucks and ambulances have been damaged or destroyed.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Louisa Loveluck and Liz Sly