Outrage after WFP thanks Russia for ‘helping’ Syrians
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has stirred anger and outrage with a tweet thanking the Russian government for helping the WFP "ensure" that families across Syria "have a warm and healthy meal on their tables".
The tweet, which was posted on Sunday by the WFP’s verified Syria account, was sent to congratulate Moscow on the Russia Day national holiday and tagged the Russian foreign ministry's account.
It was soon deleted but not before screenshots were shared by outraged Twitter users who pointed out that the Russian government's intervention in the Syrian conflict on the side of Bashar Al-Assad had killed thousands of people, while the Syrian regime had also laid siege to opposition areas.
The Russian government is also currently threatening to use its veto at the UN Security Council to stop the provision of aid to millions of people in rebel-held north-western Syria.
Kristyan Benedict, the Syria campaigns manager at Amnesty International, tweeted in response, “Which Syrians did Russia help? Oh yea, a murderous fascist regime which has repeatedly used starvation sieges against civilian populations. Meanwhile, Russia is planning to block food deliveries to civilians in the north of Syria this July. Sick.”
This isn't trivial and it's not just about optics. This goes to the heart of why Putin and Assad have been able to instrumentalise international aid to the detriment of pro-democracy Opposition enclaves in Syria.— Michael Lenehan / Mícheál Ó Leannacháin (@xlenm) June 13, 2021
Over 500,000 Syrians have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, mostly as a result of regime and Russian bombardments of civilian areas. The regime’s tactic of besieging rebel-held areas for months on end has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of people through starvation.
Twitter user Christian Turner said in response to the WFP tweet: "How well does the west think it's censored activists and sanitized reports of atrocities? Enough to have WFP thank Russia for supplying some food aid despite having contributed hugely to the destruction and displacement that caused the need for it."
The "Grannies 4 Equality" Twitter account said: "This truly is unbelievable. Thanking a country that bombs humanitarian aid convoys and depots, & that plans to impose a starvation siege on North Syria in 2 weeks time".
Other accounts shared images of urban areas in Syria devastated by Russian bombardment.
Human rights groups have accused Russia of deliberately targeting hospitals, bakeries, marketplaces and other civilian facilities in its intervention in Syria, which is now in its sixth year.
.@WFP_Syria put out this tweet thanking #Russia for ... their ‘work’ in #Syria?! Then after rightful backlash by activists, they deleted the tweet then proceeded to block those who called them out. How very professional. Here’s a glimpse of the real work of the Russians! pic.twitter.com/NG0T7txuKj— Rise Up Rebels (@riseuprebel) June 13, 2021
Syrian activists have often accused the United Nations and its agencies of bias towards the Assad regime and its allies in the past. A recent decision by the World Health Organisation to appoint the regime's representatives to its executive board has also sparked widespread condemnation.
On Facebook, Mansour Omari, a Syrian journalist said that despite the tweet being deleted "this doesn't mean that the people who tweeted and thanked [Russia] and permitted this are gone".