After the bombing, Russia looks to win Syrian friends

After the bombing, Russia looks to win Syrian friends
2 min read
12 April, 2016
After destroying swathes of Syria, Russia is now looking at expanding its influence in the country with troops clearing landmines and the Russian language promoted in schools.
This school is Aleppo was destroyed by Russian war planes killing eight students [Anadolu]
Russian teachers are set to be despatched to Syria, in a bid to promote the Russian language in the war-torn country.

Studying a second language is compulsory in Syrian schools, and while English remains the most popular choice for students, Moscow is hoping that Russian will overtake French to become a third language for young Syrians.

The language could be useful for Syrians in regime areas where Russia already has a strong military presence, as the Kremlin looks to further its influence into civilian areas.

Moscow launched air raids to support the Syrian regime last year, and has since expanded its airbase in Latakia and port in Tartous.

Hundreds of Russian airmen, mechanics, sailors and troops are still housed at the bases, and some Syrians are employed in civilian roles, in areas where unemployment and poverty have become commonplace.

Syrian state news said that Damascus plans to promote the study of Russian in schools since it made the language an option for students as a second foreign language one year ago.
 
Now Russian will be be an option for students up to 12th grade (aged 17-18), typically the last year of school for Syrians.

The number of Syrian schools teaching Russian has shot up to 105 schools this year from 59 in 2015, and around 7,500 students in seventh and eighth grades are taking the language.
Moscow was accused by human rights groups and NGOs operating in Syrian-opposition territories of deliberately targeting schools and hospitals.
Evidently, it's French - the language of Syria's one-time colonial rulers - that has suffered for the growing popularity of Russian.

Russian and Syrian officials also hope to organise a two-week camp in Russia for top language learners, which will help the students immerse themselves in the language and culture.

Russia is attempting to win a "hearts-and-minds" campaign with Syrians in regime-held areas.

Pro-Moscow media have reported that Russian troops have now embarked on mine clearance duties and baking bread for locals.

It comes after Russia announced a partial withdrawal from Syria after a six-month bombing campaign, with most of its firepower directed on densely populated rebel areas.

The bombardment led to a wave of destruction in opposition-held Idlib, Daraa, Hama, Latakia and Aleppo, killing thousands of civilians and destroying hundreds of thousands of homes.

Moscow was accused by human rights groups and NGOs operating in Syrian-opposition territories of deliberately targeting schools and hospitals.