Russian FM defends Assad’s attack against rebels in Aleppo


RUSSIA is warning that a “tragedy” is looming in Syria’s second city of Aleppo but says it is unrealistic to expect the government will stand by when armed rebels are occupying major cities.

“We are persuading the government that they need to make some first gestures,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference alongside his Japanese counterpart on Saturday.

“But when the armed opposition are occupying cities like Aleppo, where yet another tragedy is brewing as I understand,… it is not realistic to expect that they (the government) will accept this,” Lavrov added.

The Syrian army launched a fightback against rebels in Aleppo on Saturday, amid concern among Western governments about reprisals against the civilian population of the country’s second city.

“How can you hope that in such a situation, the government will simply reconcile itself and say ‘All right, I was wrong. Come on and topple me, change the regime?'” Lavrov asked rhetorically.

“It’s just not realistic – not because we are holding onto this regime – but it simply doesn’t work,” he said in the news conference in the southern city of Sochi, which was broadcast live by state media.

Russia has repeatedly rejected accusations Moscow is backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in the crisis, claiming it has an even-handed approach while rebuking the West for siding with the rebels.

The Australian