Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova briefing, February 15 — Obama, U.S. use of depleted uranium in Syria, ‘Russian hackers’, Ukraine’s information campaign

From Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
February 15, 2017

Excerpts:

The situation in Syria

 

The ceasefire regime in Syria introduced December 30, 2016, is being observed. Its zone continues to expand with units of the Southern Front armed opposition joining the ceasefire. The ceasefire is guaranteed by Russia, Turkey and Iran, with Jordan making a substantial contribution to it.

The fight continues against ISIS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, terrorists. The Syrian Army and militia units, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, are methodically pushing terrorist elements out of the country. About 1,400 square kilometres of territory have been liberated since January 1, 2017. It became possible to force ISIS terrorists out of a fortified outpost in the village of Tadef near the city of al-Bab, to establish a bridgehead near the city and to gain control of the Raqqa−al-Bab motorway. Over 650 terrorists were eliminated in Tadef, and a route for supplying ISIS with reinforcements, equipment and financial assistance was cut off.

Government forces continue to advance on Palmyra. The Russian Defence Ministry has published drone footage showing the barbaric destruction of UNESCO World Heritage Sites by ISIS militants in this city. Unfortunately, it is already clear that little remains of these ancient architectural and cultural landmarks. The terrorists have razed the façade of an ancient Roman amphitheatre, as well as Tetrapylon columns, to the ground. They are also highly likely to blow up the remnants of the historical architectural complex and nearby residential areas. The jihadists have shelled the Homs refinery with mortars, and they also set fire to natural gas fields while retreating.

As you know, Astana will host the second international meeting on Syria over the next few days. The Russian delegation that has already arrived in the capital of Kazakhstan will hold working consultations today. We hope that the upcoming meeting in the capital of Kazakhstan will provide an additional boost to the inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue under UN auspices in Geneva. Hopefully, it will become possible to resume this dialogue on February 20.

Against this backdrop, we note the attempts to aggravate the intra-Syrian conflict still further and to exacerbate contradictions between the warring parties. This is the only way to interpret the media leaks by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Atlantic Council of the United States, via CNN, about the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces in Aleppo, mass executions at Sednaya military prison near Damascus, and the methodical destruction of Syrian socioeconomic infrastructure by the Russian Aerospace Forces. The evidence backing up these so-called “sensations” leaves a lot to be desired, but, as we can see, their authors don’t seem to care. Their purpose is to torpedo any chance for launching a political peace settlement that has appeared largely through Russian efforts and to thwart emerging prospects for broad, equitable and mutually respectful international cooperation in the interests of eradicating a terrorist hotbed in the Middle East and stabilising the region.

 

Media response to the United States using depleted uranium in Syria
Given how many sensationalistic stories are planted in the media, as I mentioned earlier, it’s fun to watch world media juggernauts and institutions dealing with freedom of speech get busy with creating websites to oppose the spread of “fake news,” which has become a widespread practice. On the one hand, they say it’s imperative to not just counter it, but to do all it takes to prevent the spread of “fake news,” while they themselves engage in spreading precisely such news.

Against the background of this data, the information provided by the United States Central Command, whose operational responsibility includes, primarily, the Middle East, to the effect that the US Air Force used munitions with depleted uranium in air strikes on ISIS positions in Syria, came as a shock to many who did not believe us when we said so. As you may be aware, such a statement was made by an official representative on Tuesday when he spoke about the US air operations with the use of toxic substances which cause cancer and birth defects.

As you may recall, Russia has stated this more than once. Back in October 2016, citing independent experts, we presented such information and called on the public to pay attention to it. At that time, our American partners denied all the accusations against them. A couple of months later, these accusations were not merely confirmed, but confirmed by the United States itself. The only difference is that we provided this information a few months ago, when the previous team led by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was at the helm. Clearly, he was the one to give the go-ahead to using these weapons − any other scenario is unlikely, since such things must be approved at the highest level. I would like to say that the goal pursued by US officials was noble, that is to fight terrorists. But the point is that the traces of these weapons will remain in Syria forever. You can find out more about it if you read some professional literature. The number of missiles that were used is simply devastating. I would like to quote the same US official, who said that out of 1,790 missiles fired on November 16, 2016, 1,490 contained toxic materials, and 3,775 missiles of 4,530 fired on November 22, 2016 contained toxic materials. Thus, there were five rounds with depleted uranium for every conventional missile. Each operation involved four A-10 jet aircraft. You can look up these numbers.

I would like to remind you that earlier the United States, particularly the Pentagon, claimed that the United States has never used ammo with depleted uranium during the international anti-terrorist operation in Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, in 2003, these munitions were used during the US invasion of Iraq. I reiterate, it is better to read up on this subject in specialised literature, make inquiries, perhaps, even with independent expert institutes, and ask the experts specialising in this area to provide their opinion. They will tell you what the use of weapons with depleted uranium is all about, and what its implications are for the lives and livelihoods of the local people.

I mentioned this with regard to fake news and the role of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s team in resolving international conflicts. Incidentally, people live in Syria. The scary thing is that the focus was on isolated cases which were clearly propaganda shams where individual Syrian citizens, unfortunately, were propelled to the status of international stars, and the information campaign regarding these people was used as a front to cover up what was really happening in that country.

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