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  • Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters ride atop of military vehicles as they celebrate victory in Raqqa, Syria, October 17, 2017.

    Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters ride atop of military vehicles as they celebrate victory in Raqqa, Syria, October 17, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 October 2017
Opinion

"Raqqa has inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, wiped off the face of the earth by Anglo-American bombardments," said the major-general.

Russia has accused the U.S.-led forces in Syria, including Kurdish militia, of wiping the city of Raqqa "off the face of the earth" with indiscriminate “barbarian bombing” in the same way the United States and Britain had destroyed Germany's Dresden through sustained carpet bombing in 1945.

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Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said in a statement that around 200,000 people had lived in Raqqa before the conflict in Syria, but that not more than 45,000 people remained.

"Raqqa has inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, wiped off the face of the earth by Anglo-American bombardments," said Konashenkov. The large German city was destroyed in Allied bombing raids just before the end of World War II, killing anywhere from 18,000 to 25,000 people.

U.S.-backed militias in Syria declared victory over the Islamic State group in Raqqa, the militants' capital, last week, controversially raising Kurdish nationalist banners over the last of the group's footholds after a four-month battle.

The military spokesman also accused Washington, Paris, and Berlin of hiding behind the pretext of reconstruction efforts to cover up the massive amount of civilians killed in the event.

"What is behind the rush by Western capitals to provide targeted financial help only to Raqqa?" said Konashenkov.

"There's only one explanation - the desire to cover up evidence of the barbaric bombardments by the U.S. air force and the coalition as fast as possible and to bury the thousands of civilians 'liberated' from Islamic State (group) in the ruins."

"Over recent years, Russia has addressed the US and the European capitals asking to send humanitarian assistance to the Syrians suffering from the war," he said. "We have put a list of settlements, where that assistance was most wanted - without dividing the Syrians into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Every time, from Washington, Berlin, Paris and London the answer was the same: we cannot and we shall not."

“The bravura statements made by representatives of the U.S. administration about the ‘outstanding victory’ in defeating in Raqqa cause bewilderment," the official added.

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"Washington’s imagination is that the IS controlled in Syria only Raqqa – a provincial city," Konashenkov said, noting that the U.S.-Kurdish joint offensive that began on June 6 basically depopulated the city.

"Compare: Deir ez-Zor with the vast suburbs by the Euphrates before the war had a population of more than 500,000, and it took the Syrian forces with support from the Russian Aerospace Force ten days to liberate all that territory," he added, noting that the city continues to welcome civilians back to their homes daily.

Earlier this month, Konashenkov accused the United States of allowing Islamic State group militants to operate "under its nose" in Syria, saying Washington was letting the militant group move about freely in an area controlled by the U.S. military near a strategic Syrian highway border crossing with Iraq in the south of the country.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed force dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia, said the people of the majority Arab city and surrounding province would decide their own future "within the framework of a decentralized, federal, democratic Syria."

Assad, who is fast regaining territory in Syria's most populous eastern regions with Iranian and Russian military support, has repeatedly said the state will recover all Syria.

Asked about the SDF statement, Ali Haidar, the Syrian government minister responsible for national reconciliation, said Raqqa's future could only be discussed "as part of the final political structure of the Syrian state."

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