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US-led coalition colluding with IS instead of fighting terrorism – Defense Ministry

The US-led coalition, including the Kurdish armed units, lets militants of the Islamic State terrorist group leave Raqqa instead of killing them, the commander of Russia's force grouping in Syria, Sergey Surovikin, said.

"Instead of eliminating terrorists guilty of killing hundreds and thousands of Syrian civilians, the US-led coalition together with the Democratic Forces Union controlled by it enters into collusion with ringleaders of the ISIL (IS, former name of the Islamic State group outlawed in Russia - TASS), who give up the settlements they had seized without fighting and head to the provinces where the Syrian government forces are active," he said.

According to Surovikin, the command of the Russian force grouping in Syria sees in the Raqqa area militants leaving the city and its suburbs unhindered. "According to available reliable information, in early June ISIL terrorists entered into collusion with the command of the Kurdish armed units, which are part of the Democratic Forces Union, left the populated localities of Tadia and al-Hamam located 19 kilometers southwest of Raqqa offering no resistance and headed toward Palmyra," he said.

All militants' attempts to leave through the corridor set up in southern Raqqa are thwarted by Russian troops, he added.

However, the stance taken by the United States and the coalition it leads evokes questions from the Russian Defense Ministry. "One gets the impression that the Americans are using ISIL to offer stubborn resistance to the movement of government troops making use of the legend about the fight against international terrorism in Syria," Surovikin said.

However, some Western news agencies are misleading the international community by providing reports about the allegedly violent armed clashes between the coalition and ISIL militants in the Raqqa province, he added.

US-led coalition aviation impedes Syrian troops' war on terror

Surovikin also said that aviation of the US-led international coalition is impeding the struggle of the Syrian government forces against terrorists.

The Syrian government forces have considerably improved their positions in the south of the province of As-Suwayda, the Russian general said.

In that region, the Syrian troops managed to capture a number of strategically important heights and communications, depriving terrorists of the possibility to freely deliver reserves and cargoes in the country's south, he noted.

"However, in the course of their offensive, the government troops were confronted with counteraction from the aviation of the US-led international coalition. The Americans advanced absolutely groundlessly ultimatum demands to the Syrian army not to approach the positions of the so-called New Syrian Army. They are motivating their actions by absurd assertions that the government troops are creating a threat to US bases and camps for training the opposition's militants in the south of Syria," the general said.

As a result, the coalition's aviation and strongholds of New Syrian Army militants have blocked the way of the government forces, which are destroying militants of the Islamic State (terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) and setting up border posts along the border with Iraq to the north-east of Al-Tanf to Abu Kamal during their offensive, Surovikin said.

"This is a violation of the sovereign right of the Syrian Arab Republic to protect its borders," the general said.

"In reply to a question about what this is done for and how this helps in the struggle against the ISIL [the former name of the Islamic State terrorist grouping], representatives of the US command vaguely explain that they feel danger from the government forces. At the same time, it is not explained what kind of danger it is and where it comes from. An impression is created that danger for the coalition is posed not by ISIL terrorists but by the Syrian government forces," Surovikin said.

The Russian command of the grouping of forces in Syria "is taking maximum efforts to deconflict the sides and ensure the security of the Syrian force groupings," the general said.

Situation on the border

Despite counteraction from the US-led international coalition, the Syrian troops and allied militia have restored during their offensive on the IS positions control on the Syrian-Jordanian border at a stretch of 105 km, Surovikin said.

The Syrian army has established nine border posts and signed agreements with 22 populated settlements to complete the process of reconciliation with the tribes of Druzes and Bedouins controlling that area. The Syrian government forces continue operations to place the Syrian-Jordanian border and the border with Iraq under control, the Russian general said.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 09Jun17]

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