Syrian forces and their allies have now retaken more than 90 percent of rebel-held territory in eastern Aleppo. The insurgents have been reduced to just pockets of resistance.
With the Syrian government on the verge of victory, international focus is on civilians trapped in the city.
But speaking in Belgrade, Russia’s foreign minister said ceasefire talks and a rebel withdrawal would only happen once the fighting had stopped.
“We say, keeping in mind our previous experience, when the militants used any break to regroup and receive reinforcements from abroad and terrorise the peaceful population even more fiercely, let us initially agree on which corridors will be created. We can agree on that with the Americans very quickly,” said Sergei Lavrov.
Washington has expressed frustration with the Russian position and is pushing for an immediate truce. according to Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs John Kirby:
“Rather than accepting the US proposal for an immediate cessation, the Russians informed us that a cessation could not start for several days, meaning that the assault by the regime and its supporters on Aleppo would continue until any agreement would go into effect. Given the dire situation in Aleppo, with the reports of continued attacks on civilians and infrastructure, this was simply not acceptable.”
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has voiced alarm over unconfirmed reports of atrocities against large numbers of civilians in the last 24 hours.
Activists and residents inside the remaining rebel enclave claim at least 79 civilians have been summarily executed by pro-government militias.