Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin has accused the United Nations aid chief of arrogance and bias after he told the UN Security Council that Russian and Syrian airstrikes have turned Aleppo into a “kill zone.”
During a Wednesday Security Council meeting, Churkin accused Stephen O’Brien of making “arrogant” and “outrageous” remarks and failing to recognize that Russia and Syria have been observing a humanitarian pause, which has been in place for the last eight days.
“The moratorium on flights has been in place for eight days. Give us at least one proof or leave those narratives for a romance you would probably write later,” he said.
“If we needed to be preached to, we would go to a church,” the Russian envoy added.
On Tuesday, Russia announced plans to extend the week-long suspension of airstrikes targeting foreign-backed Takfiri terrorists in Aleppo.
Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff said that Russian and Syrian jets had stayed 10 kilometers away from Aleppo since October 18, and that humanitarian corridors out of Aleppo remained open.
Rudskoi further expressed Moscow’s readiness to organize more ceasefires on the ground in Aleppo to allow wounded civilians to be evacuated.
Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, has been divided between government forces in the west and the militants in the east since 2012. In an attempt to free the trapped civilian population and to end the militants’ reign of terror in the east, the Syrian army, backed by Russian fighter jets, began a major offensive on September 22.
Since March 2011, Syria has been hit by deadly militancy it blames on some Western states and their regional allies.
Russia says it plans to annihilate all of its remaining chemical weapons by the end of next year, a year earlier than previously scheduled.
Colonel General Valery Kapashin, who is the head of Russia’s Federal Department for the Safe Storage and Destruction of Chemical Weapons, said on Thursday that a decision had been made to eliminate the country’s chemical stockpiles by December 2017, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
The report added that the destruction was to be carried out at only one facility, near the settlement of Kizner in Udmurtia, located in western Russia.
Back in August, Kapashin had declared that some 94 percent of the country’s chemical weapon stocks had been eliminated.
In April, the official announced that over 37,000 tons of chemical warfare agents, around 93 percent of the stocks, had been destroyed to date, promising that Russia would “get rid of” the remaining stock by December 2018.
The elimination of the stockpiles began in December 2002. By the end of 2014, Moscow announced that it had destroyed 84.7 percent of its air-delivered chemical munitions.
In January 1993, Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the production, development, possession, sharing or use of chemical weapons. At the time, Moscow declared that it possessed some 40,000 tons of toxic ammunition, including nerve agents Sarin, Soman and VX-type chemical agents.
Moscow says it uses completely safe technologies to eliminate chemical weapons, and since the commencement of the elimination process 14 years ago, no single emergency situation has occurred during the processes of destroying the toxic substances.
Russia has long opposed the militarization of space. If the United States keeps ignoring Moscow’s calls on the issue the risk of a military confrontation in space could significantly increase.
Recently, the Russian space agency Roscosmos kicked off tenders for three GLONASS satellites to be launched in 2017-2018. The company is expected to spend over one billion rubles ($16 million) on the program.
The first launch is scheduled for December 25, 2017, the other two – for November 25, 2018. The satellite will be carried by a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome spaceport.
In February and May 2016, two Glonass-M satellites were added to the GLONASS system.
Currently, the system involves 27 satellites, 23 of which are in operation, two are put in orbital reserve, one is undergoing flight tests, and the last is undergoing maintenance.
In the event of a military conflict, communication satellites would be an important target, military expert and observer Viktor Baranets said.
“The current situation in space is that no satellites are protected, no matter at what orbits they are. The reason is that alongside with development of space systems, the US is running on all cylinders developing space weapons,” Baranets told Radio Sputnik.
Moreover, China already joined the game, with an anti-satellite missile test in 2007.
“Russia has its own plans too. I think that if Washington keeps ignoring Russia’s calls for the demilitarization of space, the so-called ‘combat cosmonautics’ would become reality,” Baranets pointed out.
His words were echoed by Russian defense expert Vasily Kashin. In an interview with Sputnik China, Kashin said that modern satellites are almost devoid of any opportunity to protect themselves from the impact of interceptor missiles.
In 2008, the Russian and Chinese governments proposed an international agreement to prevent the deployment of weapons in outer space but the US government under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama has consistently rejected launching negotiations to conclude such a treaty.
Before Barack Obama became president, during his presidential campaign, he called for talks with Russia on anti-satellite weapons which started back in the 1970s but then was terminated by Washington. However, no progress has been made on the issue.
Baranets said it could not be ruled out that in the future space might be militarized which would pose a threat to the entire world.
“Mankind will have to decide whether to militarize space or not. There are very difficult negotiations in process. Moreover, the US wants to pass a bill to declare certain orbits exclusively American,” Baranets said.
According to him, the defense industries of both Russia and the US are working to develop space combat systems. If the process is not stopped “space wars may be possible.”
The expert stressed that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty between the US, the USSR and Britain should be revised. The document represents the legal framework of international space law, including prohibition of weapons of mass destruction in orbit.
“The treaty should be revised as soon as possible. This will prevent militarization of space. Now, space is becoming a place for effective strikes against the enemy,” the expert concluded.
In turn, Kashin assumed that anti-satellite weaponry is a new reality that should be considered while planning a possible military operation.
In this new reality, Russia, China, the US, as well as India and Iran will most likely possess domestically-made sophisticated anti-satellite weapons, according to him.