Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 August 2019

Rukban camp's residents condemn Russia for deteriorating conditions

Those trapped inside the Syrian camp refute claims that Moscow is attempting to allievate their suffering

The Rukban settlement on the Jordan-Syria border is described by residents as a 'slow death'. Men are braving a 150km-long, nighttime motorbike trip to the rebel-held north to escape it, and to avoid conscription if they should end up in government hands. AP
The Rukban settlement on the Jordan-Syria border is described by residents as a 'slow death'. Men are braving a 150km-long, nighttime motorbike trip to the rebel-held north to escape it, and to avoid conscription if they should end up in government hands. AP

Rukban residents said on Wednesday that Russia is pressuring them against their will to return to regime held areas.

Moscow announced last week that it is organising an evacuation along with the Syrian government from the camp where nearly 40,000 people are suffering from lack of food and medical supplies.

“Both Russia and Syrian government have been attempting to dismantle the camp for their own agenda,” a resident, who chose to remain anonymous, told The National.

The head of the Russian Refugee center, Sergei Solomatin, said convoys of buses have been sent to the Djleb checkpoint in Syria to evacuate refugees from the Rukban refugee camp.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed on Wednesday that Russia supports the return of Rukban refugees to their homes.

But residents have denied the Russian claims.

“This is not true, we have not seen or had any attempts to evacuate the camp,” he said, adding that Russia wants residents to return to areas held by the regime.

Residents of the camp have been forced from their homes in Palmyra and Homs by the war. Many fled President Bashar Al Assad’s regime and ISIS.

Rukban is situated inside the so-called demilitarised zone set up by US forces, but Damascus claims US troops are occupying Syrian territory and providing a safe haven for rebels.

The zone is meant to shield US troops at the Al Tanf military base, near the Jordan-Syria border.

Both Moscow and Damascus blame Washington of failing to provide adequate living conditions inside the camp and for allegedly blocking access to the camp.

“The US has actually been pressuring the Russians to ensure that humanitarian corridors are opened to ensure that aid supplies are delivered to the camp,” the resident said.

Food and medicine deliveries to the camp have often failed due to the poor security situation.

“It is the Russians that are blocking the delivery of aid the camp, to pressure us to go to government-held areas,” he said, calling the Russian actions a crime against humanity.

Both the Russian and Syrian governments have called on the US to remove its troops from Syria.

"We...call on the United States, whose military units are on Syrian territory illegally, to leave the country," said a joint statement by the two states.

The UN has repeatedly warned that the situation inside the camp has “reached a critical stage”.

The camp remains the most desperate settlement inside Syria.

Updated: March 6, 2019 07:48 PM

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