President Vladimir Putin on Saturday questioned US commitment to the , suggesting Washington was not prepared to break with “terrorist elements” battling forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar Assad.
Syria’s army general command, meanwhile, said planes from the US-led coalition fighting had bombed a Syrian army position at Jebel Tharda near Deir al-Zor airport, state media reported.
The strike killed Syrian soldiers who had been preparing for an attack against Isis and was “conclusive evidence” that the US and its allies support the jihadist group, the Syrian army said in a statement. The Russian military said 62 Syrian soldiers were killed.
The Syrian ceasefire deal, meant to enhance effective operations against Isis, has largely held since going into effect on Monday. But both sides have alleged dozens of violations and aid convoys have been unable to enter rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo – a key opposition demand.
has accused Washington of failing to rein in the rebels, and on Saturday Putin asked why the US has insisted on not releasing a written copy of the agreement. Officials have provided details of the agreement in press conferences, but have not released an official document, fueling suspicions on both sides.
“This comes from the problems the US is facing on the Syrian track – they still cannot separate the so-called healthy part of the opposition from the half-criminal and terrorist elements,” he said during a trip to Kyrgyzstan.
“In my opinion, this comes from the desire to keep the combat potential in fighting the legitimate government of Bashar Assad. But this is a very dangerous route.”
He appeared to be referring to the Fatah al-Sham Front, an al-Qaida-linked group previously known as the Nusra Front, which is deeply embedded in rebel-held areas and fights alongside more moderate groups.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov echoed Putin’s remarks during a phone call with US secretary of state John Kerry. Lavrov noted the “refusal by an array of illegal armed groups to join the ceasefire”, and Washington’s obligation to “separate units of the moderate opposition from terrorist groupings”, according to a Russian foreign ministry statement.
Under the ceasefire agreement, the US and Russia would work together to target the Fatah al-Sham Front, as well as the Islamic State group, while Assad’s forces refrain from striking opposition-held areas.
In December, Damascus accused the US-led coalition of striking an army camp near Deir al-Zor, the target of the strike reported by the Syrian army on Saturday, but Washington said it was done by Russian jets. The Syrian army controls Deir al-Zor airport and parts of the city which are otherwise entirely surrounded by territory held by Islamic State.
A strike list issued by the US on Saturday said it had carried out a strike at Deir al-Zor against five Isis supply routes, as well as strikes near Raqqa and elsewhere in .
Washington has warned Russia that unless aid is delivered to Aleppo, it will not move ahead with the formation of the joint coordination center.
The has accused Assad’s government of obstructing aid access to the contested city. The Russian military says insurgents have held up the delivery by firing on government positions along the main route leading into besieged, rebel-held districts, in violation of the cease-fire.
Russia’s military said Syrian rebels violated a cease-fire 55 times in the past day, including with strikes on military and civilian targets in Aleppo. Syria’s state news agency SANA said insurgents had violated the ceasefire 12 times in the last 12 hours.
The Interfax news agency quoted Colonel Sergei Kopytsin as saying on Saturday that mortar fire and homemade rockets struck Aleppo 26 times. Russian news agencies cited another official, Lieutenant General Vladimir Savchenko, as saying there had been 55 violations throughout the country. No casualties were reported.
Syrian activists said government forces have meanwhile killed five civilians. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a woman and child were killed Saturday in Talbiseh, in the central Homs province. It said two men were killed outside Damascus and a child was killed in Aleppo province.
The Syrian Civil Defense group in Homs said government artillery caused the deaths in Talbiseh. A video of the rescue mission showed bodies strewn across the ground.
Syria’s conflict has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced half the country’s population since March 2011.