A Russian helicopter was shot down Monday, following a mission to deliver aid to Aleppo. All five crew members on-board were killed, according to the Russian state media. The helicopter was en route to its base at Khmeimim when it was attacked in the Idlib region. Russian officials have stated that ground fire brought the Mi-8 helicopter to the group.
Russia claims aircraft and crew were part of humanitarian efforts.
Apparently, the crew members belonged to the Russian Reconciliation Center, which has been set up to oversee cease fire agreements, as well as deliver humanitarian aid. The Russian government claims that it has 14 tons of food on standby in and around Aleppo that is available to citizens and former rebels who choose to leave the city. A Kremlin spokesman claimed that the casualties were the results of efforts by the helicopter's crew to avoid crash landing in populated areas on the ground. Mi-8 helicopters are designed primarily to act as transport aircraft, but can also be refitted for fo reconnaissance and gunship duties, among others.
Aleppo under siege, crisis in waiting?
Aleppo is currently under siege, with Syrian government and Russian forces having cut essentially all supply-lines to the city. The United Nations has warned that a humanitarian crisis is brewing in Eastern Aleppo, which is still under rebel control. It is believed that as many as 200,000 to 300,000 people remain trapped in the rebel held region of Aleppo. The U.N. has called for a 48 hour cease fire to deliver medicine and food to Eastern Aleppo.
The Syrian and Russian governments have opened up three “safe” corridors to allow civilians and surrendering rebels t0 safely exit the city. Apparently, surrendering rebels will be granted amnesty. Russian and Syrian forces have been bombarding Eastern Aleppo with leaflets urging civilians to flee and rebels to surrender. Critics argue that these are efforts to depopulate the city so government-aligned forces can seize control.
Secretary of State John Kerry Skeptical
Secretary of State John Kerry, however, has expressed doubts over the intent of the corridors, alleging that they could be a ruse. Kerry also claimed that the corridors could cause the complete break down of Russian-U.S. cooperation. Kerry also stated, however, that if an agreement can be reached regarding what is happening and how to move forward, it could open up “possibilities”. #war #Russia #Syrian war