Remarks by Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office in Geneva Alexey Borodavkin at the conference, “Aleppo: A City Free From Terror. New Life, New Hopes,” Geneva, June 14, 2017
First of all, I would like to welcome the participants of this conference entitled, “Aleppo: A City Free From Terror. New Life, New Hopes.”
We decided to convene a conference in order to tell the truth about the events preceding and following the liberation of Aleppo from the terrorists. Our goal is to let speak the people who brought peace to this city, and who can see with their own eyes that life in Aleppo is improving. I will introduce some of them to you. General Vladimir Savchenko, who organised a humanitarian evacuation from the war zone in eastern Aleppo in the autumn of 2016. Maj of Medical Service Roman Guzeyev, who risked his life to help wounded and sick troops in Aleppo field hospital. Also, reporters Vanessa Beeley and Marinella Correggia, who were in Aleppo several times.
We all remember how, during the liberation of eastern Aleppo from members of Jabhat al-Nusra and other radical groups, some international media, at the instigation of the terrorists’ accomplices, spread false news on the internet about the situation in that city. A number of states and international organisations readily picked up and repeated this fake news.
I will give you a couple of examples. When the operation of the Syrian army with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces to liberate eastern Aleppo from al-Nusra was in its active stage, a photo spread on social media in which a girl in a stained dress runs along an almost destroyed street lined with dead bodies. The truth is that the picture was taken in Lebanon in 2014 on a set made for a video by Lebanese singer Hiba Tawaji. Or, take the famous "symbol of the suffering of Aleppo" – the wounded three-year-old boy Omran Daqneesh, whose "Oscar-winning" White Helmets, instead of helping him, used him in their unscrupulous propaganda. Here he is - on the screen, and on the front pages of Western newspapers. During today's conference, we will return to this story, show the boy and his father who live safely in liberated Aleppo and curse the terrorists and their accomplices.
Those same media, countries and international organisations kept silent about the atrocities committed by terrorists, such as shooting civilians who tried to escape from the city using the corridors set up by the Syrian and Russian military humanitarian units, the booby-traps disguised as toys, the use of chlorine and other toxic substances to kill civilians, regular shelling from mortars and rocket artillery of residential areas of western Aleppo, depriving local residents of medicine, water and food, using people as human shields, and many others. According to Father Superior of the St. Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Church in Aleppo, Jabrail Azar, the jihadists damaged 13 ancient Christian churches, some of which were destroyed completely. Just look at the figures: before eastern Aleppo was captured by terrorists, 150,000 Christians lived there. After, only a few dozen remained. Now, more than 25,000 Aleppo Christians have returned to their homes.
The misinformation campaign was conducted in the autumn of 2016 and was allegedly caused by food and medicine shortages in Aleppo. Meanwhile, the terrorists’ warehouses were chock-full of medicine and food. However, the terrorists were not in a hurry to distribute them among the city's residents.
With the help of Russia, the Syrian government is now making enormous efforts to normalise the situation in Aleppo. This includes, primarily, the demining of the city, which was completed in an unprecedentedly short period of time and made it possible to open humanitarian access and start rebuilding the ruined infrastructure. The water supply, cut off by the terrorists, was restored. No less important was the contribution by the Russian military doctors who, under shelling, saved the lives of civilians who fled from terror. After the city was liberated, the doctors continued their heroic work. The military police of the Russian armed forces helps normalise the situation in the city. The representatives of the Russian centre for reconciliation of the warring parties distribute humanitarian aid on a daily basis.
These efforts have borne fruit: the families which had left their homes to escape terrorist attacks, executions and violence are returning to Aleppo. The city residents help remove the debris from the streets and rebuild their homes.
The Syrian football championship is back to the stadium in Aleppo with fans chanting, “Aleppo is back!”, which is a good sign.
Unfortunately, the politically biased media, some states and international organisations keep ignoring these facts. Frankly, anything else would be a surprise.
Importantly, the international community ought to realise that the people of Aleppo still need help. It is imperative to contribute to the efforts of the Syrian authorities to restore normal life in Aleppo, rather than try to obstruct this important work by imposing unilateral illegal inhuman sanctions and false accusations. It is time to abandon this vicious approach.
We call upon all states, international organisations and NGOs to join efforts in helping Aleppo, so that the people of this long-suffering city can quickly put about their suffering behind them, and peace, calm and prosperity can return to Syria.