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Putin orders daily ‘humanitarian pause’ in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a daily “humanitarian pause” in air strikes on the rebel-held Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta beginning on Tuesday, Russia’s defense minister said.

“At the Russian president’s order, a humanitarian pause from 09:00 to 14:00 will be declared in Eastern Ghouta starting from tomorrow, February 27, in order to prevent civilian casualties. A humanitarian corridor will be set up so that civilians can leave the area. The relevant coordinates will be prepared and announced shortly,” Tass quoted Minister of Defence Sergey Shoygu as saying at a ministry board meeting on Monday.

He said there should be similar pauses in the southern Al-Tanf border region and Rukban, near the Jordanian border, “so that civilians can return to their homes unhindered and begin to rebuild their civilian lives.”

Interfax reported Shoygu as saying that a humanitarian corridor would be opened to allow civilians to leave Eastern Ghouta. He suggested a similar corridor to allow people to leave refugee camps in Rukban.

Russia has denied airstrikes on Eastern Ghouta have killed civilians and insisted groups attacked by regime and allied forces are associated with terrorists.

More than 520 civilians are thought to have died in a week of heavy bombardment in Eastern Ghouta, just outside Damascus, by the Syrian regime.

The United States, rights groups and Syrian media have said Russian planes carried out the strikes, including on hospitals.

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday unanimously demanded a 30-day truce in Syria. The resolution does not cover operations against Islamic State or Al Qaeda, and Turkey has said it will not pause its offensive against the predominately Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Efrin.

Russia is a key ally of Assad, and fought a campaign for over two years in Syria in his support, helping to turn around the multi-front war.

With reporting from AFP

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