Sergei Ryabkov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, refuted the information that Russia and Syria are preparing to storm Syria's Aleppo after clearing civilians out of the city under the guise of a humanitarian operation. Radio Liberty quoted him as the diplomat answered reporters questions on late July 29.
U.S. officials and Syrian rebel groups have suggested Russia's and Syria's creation on July 28 of so-called "safe corridors" where they have invited an estimated 250,000 civilians trapped amidst fighting to evacuate may be part of a plan to depopulate the city so that the Syrian army, which has surrounded and besieged the city, can seize it.
"I categorically deny the allegation that some assault is being prepared," Ryabkov told Interfax late on July 29.
"Our American partners, due to their own stagnancy and suspiciousness toward Russia, are beginning to attribute some nonexistent designs to us. We cannot accept that things are formulated this way. We are pursuing the ends that have been declared - not more but not less," he said.
Some U.S. officials have agreed with assertions by Syrian rebel groups that the so-called safe zones, which Aleppo's besieged civilians so far have largely avoided, will not be used to provide humanitarian aid and a safe route out, but rather to cleanse the area so government forces can capture it.
They point out, moreover, that with momentum in the war on the side of Syria and Russia, capturing the biggest remaining rebel stronghold in Aleppo would provide them with a potentially decisive victory.