The Kremlin said Friday that President Vladimir Putin did not think it was time to resume air strikes on Aleppo after the defence ministry requested that a moratorium on bombing be lifted.
“The Russian president considers it inappropriate at the current moment to resume strikes on Aleppo,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that Putin thought it was necessary to “continue the humanitarian pause” in the war-ravaged city.
The announcement came shortly after the defence ministry said in a surprise statement that it had asked Putin to allow the Russian air force to resume air strikes in Aleppo after a 10-day halt in bombing.
It also followed the launch by Syrian rebels of an assault on government forces to break a months-long siege of rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
At least 15 civilians were killed and more than 100 wounded on Friday by rebel rocket fire on government-held western Aleppo neighbourhoods, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Peskov stressed that in spite of the halt in bombing in Aleppo, Russia would deploy all its means to support the Syrian army if necessary.
“The Russian side retains the right in case of extreme necessity to use all the troops and facilities it has to carry out support of the Syrian armed forces at the necessary level,” he said.
Senior military official Sergei Rudskoi said earlier Friday that Russia was ready to “assess any proposal about improving the humanitarian situation in Aleppo, including the introduction of ‘humanitarian pauses'”, but warned that a halt in bombing should not be used “for fighters to reach their objectives”.
Russia’s defence ministry has said that Syrian and Russian warplanes have not bombed Aleppo for the past ten days to allow civilians and rebels wishing to leave the city to do so via humanitarian corridors.
The halt in bombing was initially declared ahead of a short ceasefire that ended at the weekend, with Moscow on Monday ruling out a truce extension for the time being.
The West has accused Moscow of committing possible war crimes in Aleppo through indiscriminate bombing to support Syrian government efforts to retake total control over the city.
Russia has meanwhile denied any role in deadly air strikes on a Syrian school in the rebel-held province of Idlib that killed 22 children on Wednesday.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the strikes were carried out by “warplanes — either Russian or Syrian”.
More than 300,000 people have been killed in Syria and over half of the country’s population displaced since the conflict began in March 2011.