UN urges world leaders to stop Ukraine from sharing 'similar fate' to Syria

UN urges world leaders to stop Ukraine from sharing 'similar fate' to Syria
2 min read
UN investigators said on Wednesday that world leaders should do 'everything' they can to stop Ukraine from facing 'a similar fate' to Syria.
Syrian and Russian forces 'operating side by side have continued to indiscriminately bomb densely populated areas in the northwest' [source: Getty]

United Nations investigators on Wednesday urged world leaders to do everything they could to avoid Ukraine becoming another Syria, a country "destroyed" by 11 years of conflict.

Russian forces have been involved in the Syrian civil war since 2015 and the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said it hoped the disregard for civilian casualties would not be repeated in Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Rather than winding down, the investigators said the war in Syria was heating up again and warned that its participants may take advantage of world attention turning away towards Ukraine.

Commission chair Paulo Pinheiro spoke of the millions of people displaced, the more than 100,000 people missing or forcibly disappearing, the poverty rate at an unprecedented 90 percent, human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

"We can only hope that world leaders are doing everything now that they can avoid a similar fate for Ukraine," he told reporters.

Syrian and Russian forces "operating side by side have continued to indiscriminately bomb densely populated areas in the northwest", he said.

"Civilians have also been attacked with sophisticated precision-guided weapons and airstrikes - including in strikes where Russian fixed-wing aircraft were identified flying over targeted areas."

Pinheiro also said Russia and Syria were insisting on humanitarian aid being delivered from Damascus rather than across the border, but "their attacks in the northwest occur along the very road where such humanitarian aid would travel".

He added: "We are seeing since 2015 similar practices by the Russian Federation in the conflict that we are seeing in another country today."

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The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011 in the country.

Hanny Megally, one of the three commissioners, said Russian forces were in Syria to help the government, while they were in Ukraine "to remove it".

Another difference, he said, was that the Russians were using more air power in Syria, rather than the large number of ground forces seen in Ukraine.

Citing indiscriminate attacks on civilians and targeted attacks on medical facilities, he said: "The disregard for civilian casualties is one of our biggest concerns in Syria and I would hope that's not being repeated in Ukraine."

On Wednesday, Russia carried out an airstrike on a children's hospital in Mariupol during an agreed ceasefire period that was meant to allow the evacuation of civilians from the besieged southern city, said regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

Seventeen people were wounded in the attack, including women in labour, he said.