4 Mar 2020 10:49

Militants in Idlib zone driven away to safe distance from Aleppo - Russian Defense Ministry

MOSCOW. March 4 (Interfax) - Militants in the Idlib de-escalation zone have been driven to a safe distance fr om the city of Aleppo and the M5 highway, which links Damascus and Aleppo, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone, wh ere terrorists from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham [a terrorist organization banned in Russia], who attacked the Syrian governmental forces, were driven away by [the Syrian army's] retaliatory actions to a safe distance from Aleppo and the M5 highway, has become another moment of truth," spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday.

Western countries and the UN welcomed the signing of the Sochi agreement between Russia and Turkey on the creation of the Idlib de-escalation zone in 2018, he said.

"The key element of the agreement and the additional memorandum was Ankara's obligations to separate and oust terrorists from the external borders of the de-escalation zone at a depth of 15-20 kilometers, as well as to withdrawal heavy artillery there," Konashenkov said.

"Almost 18 months of implementing the agreement resulted in the fact that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Turkistan Islamic Party and Horas al-Din that the UN officially recognized as terrorist groups [and that are banned in Russia] ousted all militants of 'the moderate opposition' to the north, to the Turkish border," he said.

"Terrorists' strongholds and Turkish observation posts deployed under the agreement have merged together," spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.

"Attacks and mass artillery shelling of adjacent civilian communities and Russia's Hmeimim airbase have grown from sporadic ones into daily routine," Konashenkov said.

Turkey has breached the international law by deploying a group as large as about a division in Syria's Idlib zone, he said.

"No one in the West notices actions of the Turkish side that deployed in violation of the international law an offensive group as large as a mechanized division in Syria's Idlib in order to 'by all means secure the fulfilment of the Sochi agreement'," spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.

The Turkish mechanized division could be up to 14,000 servicemen, 250 tanks and 300 more armored units strong.