Russia considers offensive in Idlib ‘unnecessary’

MOSCOW (AA): Russia considers a military offensive in the Syrian province of Idlib “unnecessary” because of possible civilian casualties, President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday.

However, Russian air forces will continue to provide support to the Syrian army as part of its fight against terror, Putin said, speaking at a news conference following the Belt and Road forum in Beijing, China.

“In principle, I do not rule this [offensive] out, but today together with our Syrian friends, we believe that this is inappropriate, given this humanitarian component,” he said.

Putin also commented on the establishment of the Syrian constitutional committee.

He said Russia and Turkey had prepared a list of candidates for the committee, but former UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura refused to approve it because of six persons.

Russia and Turkey then replaced those six persons, but there are still difficulties.

“Reaching a complete consensus is quite a challenging task due to the lack of unity within the opposition with its multiple points of view and diverse groups.

“Still, we will work with all opposition groups patiently and persistently in order to ensure that this committee is formed since this is the only way to lay the foundation for a large-scale political process,” he said.

Turning to the Ukrainian conflict, Putin said that Russia has facilitated the granting of Russian citizenship for all Ukrainians, not only for the people of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics.

He said Russian government “counted everything” before having made the decision, so that it will be possible for the country’s budget to perform social obligations.

According to him, the Ukrainians adopted Russian citizenship and will be able to get retirement pension both in Russia and Ukraine.

“If we bear in mind that these people are living under fire, with shells going off in their backyards — then I believe that our pensioners, many of whom went through the Great Patriotic War, remember it and understand what conditions these people are living in, will not think that here we are dealing with some kind of social injustice. And we must support these people,” he said.