Displaced Syrians in the Rukban camp near the Jordanian border (File)
Trying to dismantle the Rukban camp for more than 40,000 displaced Syrians, Russian officials are lying about their failure to move residents who are unwilling to return to their home areas.
The “head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s “Center for Syrian Reconciliation” declared Friday that “militants” are preventing civilians from leaving.
Lt. Gen. Sergei Solomatin gave no evidence for the claim. However, it followed the embarrassing collapse of Moscow’s PR effort declaring “humanitarian corridors”, with the civilians passing through two checkpoints manned by Russian military police.
Video of the barren area near the Jordanian border showed the Russian personnel and aid workers, but no residents.
Russia and the Assad regime have tried for months to transfer the civilians back to their home areas. The regime has cut off routes to the camp and allowed only two aid deliveries in 13 months. Shortages of food, medicine, and essential supplies have caused the deaths of dozens of residents, with the UN saying thousands of children are at risk.
In tactics used before the takeover of eastern Aleppo city in December 2016 and the East Ghouta area near Damascus in spring 2018, Russia has complemented the siege with the announcement of the “humanitarian corridors”, declaration of “terrorists”, and blame of the US.
Rukban lies within a 55-km zone around the US base at Tanf near the Iraqi border, but the American military has not risked a confrontation by bringing supplies into the camp.
Solomatin proclaimed in his briefing:
Illegal armed groups, operating in the area [of] 55 kilometers, are preventing the refugees from leaving the Rukban camp, providing them misleading information about true intentions of the Russian side and Damascus.
He said the US must prevent rebels from disrupting the “evacuation” of civilians.
Reports: Russia Demanding Conscription of Young Men
In sharp contrast to Solomatin’s statement, pro-opposition outlets reported on Saturday that Russia rejected the appeals of camp elders, insisting young men leaving Rukban must face conscription into the Assad regime’s army.
The STEP news agency said elders sought an end to the siege but were rebuffed and told that humanitarian assistance would not enter Rukban.
Pro-opposition sources said the Russians exposed the fiction of the “humanitarian corridors” by demanding that any residents who arrived at the two checkpoints must complete forms for the regime security services.
Many residents have said they fear detention, forced conscription, and harassment if they return to their home areas. They are also uncertain about the status of property, left behind in autumn 2015 when they fled from Islamic State attacks.
Residents have expressed a preference to go to the opposition-controlled portion of northwest Syria, but talks involving Russia, Jordan, and the US have failed to produce any proposal.