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Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy held a briefing for media representatives

The ceasefire, which had been established on December 30, 2016, has been observed throughout Syria. The number of detachments of ‘moderate opposition’, which had claimed to observe the ceasefire regime, has reached 200.

Within the last month, ceasefire agreements have been signed with representatives of 116 inhabited areas. The total number of agreements has reached 1,397.

In the meantime, the number of ceasefire violations is not decreasing. Moreover, there are cases of direct breakdown of the ceasefire regime.

Therefore, on the 21st of March, some ‘opposition groups’ tried to capture the city of Hama. A grouping consisting of over 10,000 insurgents from Jabhat al-Nusra and associated illegal armed groups was created in a district controlled by the ‘opposition’.

During the attack, terrorists used their numerical superiority and managed to capture several villages on the outskirts of the city of Hama and to get close to the city. Owing to the dedicated efforts of the government troops and the support of Russian Aerospace Forces, the military situation in this region was stabilized. During the 4 days of intense battles, more than 2,100 insurgents, 55 armored vehicles, 22 VBIEDs and over 100 cars with heavy weapons were eliminated. Now the military operation aimed at liberation of the outskirts of the Hama city from insurgents continues and the Syrian troops have begun their counter-offense. 

An intensive reconciliation process is observed in the suburbs of Damascus – the Eastern Ghouta. Representatives of local authorities and leaders of self-defense groups in the majority of inhabited areas of this region have signed ceasefire agreements. According to the signed pacts, the government troops will not enter these towns and villages. Nine humanitarian corridors have been arranged to provide free passage for local residents and maintain transport link with other regions of Syria.

Meanwhile, the military situation in city districts of Jobar and al-Qaboun, which are controlled by Jabhat An-Nusra groups, remains complicated.

The mortar shelling of the Syrian capital and the Russian embassy is carried out from these districts. In order to eliminate this threat, the government troops conduct special military operation to dismember and annihilate insurgents’ forces.

In another suburb district of Damascus, the Eastern al-Qalamoun, the military situation is much better: the local opposition groups, which had signed ceasefire agreements, are willingly cooperating with the Syrian Army.

During the joint offensive of the regular army and the opposition forces, ISIS insurgents were knocked out from the commanding heights in the vicinity of Damascus – Palmyra highway. As a result, the government troops managed to secure 15 kilometers of strategic highway, which was controlled by terrorists for 3 years.

A ceasefire agreement has been signed with the al-Vaer district of the Homs city.

The insurgents were suggested three possible options:

first – strict ceasefire observation and renunciation to support terrorists;

second – to lay down arms and to use the amnesty announced by the authorities of the country;

third – to go to the area of Syria, which had not signed  a ceasefire agreement.

A number of members of illegal armed groups have chosen the third option. The first stage of evacuation of members of illegal armed groups and their families took place on the 18th of March when 1,400 people including 344 insurgents and 1,056 members of their families had left al-Vaer. They all went to the city of Jerablus, on the territory controlled by pro-Turkish opposition. About 204 insurgents expressed their desire to take personal weapons with them, and this opportunity was given to them.

Upon the demand of field commanders, the servicemen of the Russian Centre for reconciliation and the military police battalion provided security during of these activities.

Yesterday the second stage of evacuation of members of illegal armed groups from al-Vaer was held. 644 insurgents and 1,247 members of their families left al-Vaer.

In addition, over six hundred members of illegal armed groups of al-Vaer returned to peaceful life, using the amnesty declared by the government of the Syrian Arab Republic.

The Russian Aerospace Forces continue supporting the Syrian army, which is fighting against the ISIS groupings.

Developing the offensive in the north-east of the Aleppo province, the government troops and militia detachments have completely blocked a large terrorist grouping in the vicinity of the Deir Hafir town. The operation aimed at its elimination is underway.

Near Palmyra, the Syrian army supported by militia detachments continues expanding the security zone around the city. The advance of the government troops is the following:

in the north-east direction – 16 km,

in the east direction – up to 8 km;

in the south-east direction – more than 12 km.

Since the beginning of March, 115 settlements and over 1,100 square kilometers of territory have been liberated from ISIS terrorists.

We continue to monitor the international coalition actions in Iraq and Syria.

It seems that the international coalition has set itself a goal to destroy the infrastructure of critical importance on the Syria territory having hampered the post-war country reconstruction.

The most alarming are the attacks realized by coalition aircraft on a dam on the Euphrates River to the west of Raqqa. The latest such air raid took place on March 26. It resulted in damaging of two floodgates in the southern part of the dam designed to provide water discharge and non-admission of the reservoir overflow. These actions could lead to a large-scale environmental disaster, flooding of vast areas and numerous victims among the civilians.

Since yesterday, upon the initiative of the Syrian government, under the supervision of the director of the dam al-Tabqa the floodgates are being restored. The works must be completed by March 30.

In addition, on February 3, the coalition aviation destroyed four bridges: two in Raqqa and two in the inhabited areas of al-Kalta and al-Abbara. These attacks resulted in interruption of transport link between the northern and the southern parts of the city, which is inhabited by over 200 thousand people. On February 18, the Muqla bridge in the vicinity of the Maadan city (60 kilometers to the east of of Raqqa) was totally destroyed.

Despite the coalition assurance concerning the total encirclement of Mosul, insurgents continue infiltration from the city to the Deir-ez-Zor zone, the garrison of which has been fighting in the encirclement for several years. According to the available data, the last week alone at least 800 terrorists freely left Mosul for the Syrian border.

Nearly every day the coalition makes strikes on the city quarters of Mosul inhabited by not only ISIS insurgents, but also dozens of thousands of civilians. According to the estimations of international humanitarian organizations, over 250 thousand people have left the city. The refugee camps deployed in the vicinity of Mosul are overcrowded, the people are suffering from lack of food, drinking water and medicines.

It is to be reminded that in the course of the whole operation of liberation of Aleppo from insurgents the aviation was not used within a radius of 10 km from the city. Along with that, the civil population had a possibility to leave the territories controlled by terrorists through the organized humanitarian corridors.

The Russian Centre for reconciliation of the opposing sides continues rendering help to the civilians on the whole territory of Syria.

Thus, in the Aleppo city, humanitarian actions are held every day. The civil population receives sets with food products and hot food. Over 12,500 people have taken medical advice at the hospital of the Russian Defence Ministry deployed in the city.

Moreover, the liberation of the Hafsa inhabited area on the bank of the Assad water storage basin from ISIS terrorists has allowed to restore the delivery of drinking water to Aleppo.

The restoration of residential houses, schools, hospitals and other objects of social infrastructure is continued. Over 4,000 inhabitants returned home last month.

Yesterday the Russian Centre for reconciliation sent another convoy in Membidj in the north of the Aleppo province. The refugee camps located in the vicinity of the city have received about 17 tons of flour, sugar, rice, canned meat and fish. In the course of a humanitarian action, the Russian military medics rendered medical help to 282 civilians.

The detachment of  the International mine Action Centre of the Russian Armed Forces of the Russian Federation continues mine clearance in Palmyra. Today, the Russian specialists have cleared from mines 18 social objects, 940 buildings and residential houses on the territory of over 445 hectares as well as 46 km of roads. The sappers have defused over 1,800 bombs and IEDs.

During the complex sapper works and searching for booby traps, special robotic systems Uran-6 and mine detection dogs were used.

I would like to address to all the interested countries with an appeal to take part in the operation of mine clearance of monuments of world culture in Palmyra.

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