(Adds Putin order for mobile hospitals, surrender details,
By Andrew Osborn
MOSCOW Nov 29 Russia said on Tuesday that a
Syrian army breakthrough in Aleppo had dramatically altered the
situation on the ground, allowing more than 80,000 civilians to
obtain humanitarian aid after years of being used as "human
shields" by rebels.
Moscow is helping forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad
try to take back full control of the shattered city by providing
training, equipment, advice and intermittent air support.
On Monday, the Syrian army and its allies announced the
capture of a large swathe of eastern Aleppo from rebels in an
accelerating attack that threatens to crush the opposition in
its most important urban stronghold.
"During the last 24 hours, thanks to very well prepared and
careful actions, Syrian soldiers were able to radically change
the situation," Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for
the Russian defence ministry, said in a statement.
"Practically half of the territory occupied by rebels in
recent years in the eastern part of Aleppo has been completely
The advance has stirred concern in the West about the fate
of Aleppo's entrapped civilian population.
France called for a United Nations Security Council meeting
to try to end hostilities there, and politicians and officials
in Britain, Germany and the United States have all spoken of
their worry that civilians are being killed.
Konashenkov called allegations of large civilian losses
during the Syrian government operation alarmist and said Moscow
was shocked by what he called the West's "blindness" when it
came to assessing the real situation on the ground.
More than 80,000 civilians, including tens of thousands of
children, had been able to access Russian humanitarian aid in
the form of water, food and medical aid as a result of the
military breakthrough, he said.
"These Syrians were used as human shields for long years in
Aleppo by terrorists of all allegiances," said Konashenkov.
President Vladimir Putin ordered the defence ministry and
the emergency situations ministry to urgently dispatch mobile
field hospitals to Aleppo to help wounded civilians.
Russia's ceasefire monitoring centre said 507 rebels had
laid down their arms in recent days. It said 484 rebels who were
local residents had immediately been pardoned in line with an
earlier order by Assad.
(Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova and Alexander Winning)