Russia renewed its accusations against armed factions in Syria’s Idlib province of violating a ceasefire announced last week, while reaffirming the commitment of Syrian regime forces to the ceasefire.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not officially announce whether its forces or Syrian forces are committed to the agreement, which was announced Friday only through media outlets. Russian military statements only focused on the violations of insurgents in Idlib.
The Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria reported that militants had violated the ceasefire in Idlib’s de-escalation zone 13 times since May 18.
In addition, the Russian Hmeimim air base said in the statement that the Syrian regime forces committed unilaterally to the agreement since midnight May 18, but the militants continued to shell army and civilian positions with mortars and rockets in the demilitarized zone which falls under the Astana and Sochi agreements.
Head of Hmeimim Reconciliation Center Major General Viktor Kubcichin stated that of the 13 mortar and rocket attacks launched by “illegal armed groups”, 11 were carried out in Latakia, one in Hama and another in Idlib, injuring three Syrian soldiers.
However, the Russian Defense Ministry issued a different statement later saying two Syrian soldiers were killed and seven others injured, as a result of the attacks carried out by insurgents from Idlib’s de-escalation zone on Syrian army sites.
Idlib, Hama’s northern countryside, Aleppo’s western countryside, and part of Latakia’s northern countryside form the de-escalation zone, under agreements reached within the framework of the Astana platform between Russia, Turkey and Iran.
Since the beginning of the month, Idlib’s southern areas and Hama’s northwestern countryside have seen an escalation between the Syrian military and the armed groups. Government forces have been able to make tangible progress by taking control of a number of strategic villages and hills.
Damascus and Moscow say the operations of the Syrian army are in response to the "terrorists" violations of the ceasefire in these territories and the bombing of government sites and residential areas.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said Hmeimim’s defense system had intercepted new missiles that targeted the military base.
The ministry added that no casualties, nor damage had been registered.
"Despite the fact that the armed forces of the Syrian Arab Republic ensured full ceasefire starting midnight, May 18, Nusra terrorists continued provocations and shelling in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Thus, in the evening of May 19, 2019, Nusra terrorists made an attempt to attack Russian Hmeimim air base using multiple launch rocket systems… At around 8 pm on Sunday, terrorists fired six missiles from the Idlib de-escalation zone at the Russian Hmeimim air base in Syria. The air defense forces of the base on duty destroyed all the projectiles," the statement read.
The Ministry explained that Russia was able to locate the rocket launcher used in the attack, on the western outskirts of Kafr Nabl village in Idlib. The ministry also confirmed that air defense forces at the Hmeimim base destroyed two drones operated by militants.