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.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    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

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.