The UK’s ambassador to the UN has delivered a damning speech to the Security Council condemning Russia’s actions in the war on Syria, saying the country’s pretensions to peace in the country are a “sham”.
On Saturday Russian representative Vitaly Churkin vetoed a draft resolution written by Spain and France to revive a ceasefire and end air strikes except those against Isis and al-Qaeda affiliated rebels in Syria. It marked the fifth time in as many years that Russia has used its position as a permanent member of the Security Council to block UN action in the almost six-year-long civil war.
Speaking directly to his counterpart, British representative Matthew Rycroft said that Russia’s recent actions in besieged east Aleppo in particular, which is currently suffering from unprecedented Russian-backed shelling by the Syrian regime, exposed “just how hollow Russia’s commitment to the political process is,” calling Russian commitment to diplomacy a “sham”.
“Instead of investing energy in peace and diplomacy, you have instead supported, facilitated and cooperated with the Syrian regime to retake and destroy any areas standing against [Syrian President Bashar] Assad,” Mr Rycroft told the Security Council. “Killing off, literally, those who want a moderate, peaceful and pluralistic future.”
Mr Rycroft went on to say that the Russian veto was a “cynical abuse” of power, which “denigrated the credibility and respect of the Security Council in the eyes of the world.”
Mr Churkin put forward a Russian resolution for a ceasefire which did not mention air strikes, which was rejected by several members of the council.
Around 250,000 civilians remain trapped in rebel-held east Aleppo. The UK, US and French delegations to the UN have previously condemned shelling of the area for allegedly deliberately targeting civilian buildings such as hospitals and Syrian civil defence service rescue centres. More than 300 people have died because of strikes in recent weeks, the World Health Organisation and several monitors say.
French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told the Security Council that he will ask the International Court of Justice to investigate whether Russia is guilty of war crimes for its use of particularly brutal cluster munitions, ground-penetrating bombs and white phosphorus on built-up areas in east Aleppo.