News / Middle East

    Russia Digs In on Assad as Violence Intensifies

    Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during ceremony, the Kremlin, Jan. 2005 (file photo).
    Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during ceremony, the Kremlin, Jan. 2005 (file photo).
    VOA News
    The head of the U.N. observer force in Syria has accused both rebels and government troops of stoking violence in the country, a charge that comes as Russia hardens its position against Western pressure to topple embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

    Major General Robert Mood said Friday that fighting over the past 10 days has been "willingly intensified by both parties, with losses on both sides and significant risks to our observers." He said the escalating attacks could prompt his unarmed force to pull out.

    The Syrian government continued its offensive against rebel-held areas Friday. Fierce fighting was reported throughout Aleppo province and in the central city of Homs.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces are also shelling opposition areas and clashing with rebels in Douma and Damascus. Scores of people have been killed over the past few days amid the intensified fighting.

    Russia denies post-Assad planning
    In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied his government is discussing plans for a political transformation in Syria. He said Russia does "not get involved in overthrowing regimes - neither through approval of unilateral actions by the U.N. Security Council nor by participation in any political plots."

    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland suggested Thursday Washington and Moscow were discussing a post-Assad strategy for Syria.

    In an interview on French radio, France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said discussions among U.S., French and Russian officials -- along with international mediator Kofi Annan -- are underway to prepare for a Syria without its current leader.

    Russia, along with China, has vetoed two U.N. Security Council resolutions against Assad and has vowed to oppose any military intervention.

    With international efforts to mediate an end to the bloody conflict stalled, members of Syria's fractured opposition met in Istanbul Friday in an attempt to settle their differences and present a unified front.

    Opposition leader Ammar al-Qurabi said their aim is not necessarily to find a replacement for President Assad, but to bring democracy to Syria.

    "The problem is not about the shape or any umbrella," he said. "We discuss paper, we discuss democracy. The people fight Assad because they hate the dictatorship."

    The meeting, which includes delegates from the U.S., Britain, and France, comes as world powers made tentative plans to hold a June 30 summit in Geneva to revive international envoy Kofi Annan's shattered U.N.-backed peace plan.

    Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said Friday that Syrian forces are using sexual violence to torture men, women, and boys detained during the country's 15-month anti-government uprising.

    The New York-based rights group released a statement saying soldiers and pro-government armed militias are sexually abusing girls as young as 12 years old. The group based its report on interviews with former detainees who described being sexually abused or witnessing abuses, including rape, beatings and electric shocks.

    The group says it documented more than 20 incidents of sexual assault between March 2011 and March 2012, with most of the cases occurring in Homs.

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    Comments
         
    by: yooper2001 from: USA
    June 16, 2012 7:14 AM
    Putin wants to return to iron curtain days. He longs to get all countries to form the old USSR. If he had his way, he would want to be a czar. I live in Russia and i predict a revolution within 5 years
    In Response

    by: Mike
    June 18, 2012 3:09 AM
    I agree. Only one correction - Putin has already become a tsar, and has more power than the last Russian Tsar.Putin has increasingly becomes impudent both domestically and abroad. This is because the West has very weak political leaders from Obama to Angela Merkel. Putin and his colleagues as well as the Soviet authorities understand the language of force only.

    by: CAO DAI from: Vietnam
    June 16, 2012 12:41 AM
    The My Lai Massacre was the Vietnam War mass murder of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968, by United States Army soldiers of "Charlie" Company of 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the Americal Division. Most of the victims were women, children, infants, and elderly people. Some of the bodies were later found to be mutilated[2] and many women allegedly raped prior to the killings.[3] While 26 US soldiers were initially charged with criminal offenses for their actions at Mỹ Lai, only Second Lieutenant William Calley, a platoon leader in Charlie Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but only served three and a half years under house arrest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Lai_Massacre).
    Where was the Human Rights Watch at that time?


    by: kafantaris from: USA
    June 15, 2012 8:08 PM
    Why do we expect Russia to act differently than it has on Syria? Can we not see that Syria is somewhat of a microcosm of Russia? For decades strong rulers have governed both countries -- effectively denying their citizens a say so in their government. If Russia helps fix things in Syria, it will need to fix them next at home.
    Why then would Putin help us with a regime change in Syria, which has even become an opportunity for him at home to showcase Russia's strength in the world? Better to stick with the old script and raid the offices of political opponents or drum up bogus charges against businessmen.
    Forget Russia then. When the ground starts to shake under their feet, these boys stick with their friends.
    But nothing will stop the steamroller of the Information Age that is barreling down on the Putins, the al-Assads and the Ayatollahs of this world. And they are too drunk with power to get out of the way.

    by: Charles Koelsch from: Providence, RI usa
    June 15, 2012 5:37 PM
    Do unto others... A country would only ever condone the actions of the Syrian government against its own people because that country would want to have that justification and support to do the same to its own people.

    by: Joe Zrnchik from: Highland, Indiana, US
    June 15, 2012 5:34 PM
    When a no-fly zone expanded into a many months long bombing campaign in Libya I guess one could have also said the violence "intesified". Yet, not a word was spoken in condemnation by the West who wanted banking and oil dominance over Gadaffi's country. But, if the Us really wants the violence to subside it need do nothing more than stop sending heavy weapons to al Qaeda radicals now trying to overthrow Assad. Also, since we found out the people massacred were Alawite Shiites killed by Sunni foreign fighters we seem to have heard little about the correction. Maybe you guys can bring back the old "Assad is giving out Viagra to allow soldiers to rape women" meme again. I can never figure out how it is the general public can be more stupid than the press.

    by: terry
    June 15, 2012 4:27 PM
    How come the US and Russia can no agree on anything! I think in the long run they have been right on a lot of things like. Afghanistan

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