Russia’s embassy in the US trolled US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in a tweet Monday, comparing Russia’s bombing campaign in the Chechen capital of Grozny 16 years ago to its scorched-earth offensive on Syria’s Aleppo today.
The embassy’s Twitter account is notoriously provocative. But the deliberate comparison of Russia’s razing of Grozny to suppress Chechen separatists — which left the city completely decimated by February 2000 — to its relentless bombing raids in Aleppo today was surprisingly candid.
“Wow. Russia basically saying: Yes, it’s true, we’re doing to Aleppo what we did to Grozny — and that’s a good thing,” Mathiew von Rohr, deputy head of German newspaper Der Speigel’s foreign news desk, noted on Twitter.
“Above how many mass graves are these nice buildings erected?” Joseph Bahout, a Middle East analyst and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment, tweeted at the embassy.
Those who have watched the Russia-backed government offensive on Aleppo play out over the past month have made the comparison, too — but not optimistically, like the Russian embassy did Monday.
“The destruction is so complete that it obliterates even a sense of time,” Michael Kimmelman wrote in The New York Times last week, in an article on the Aleppo offensive accompanied by drone footage of the devastation caused largely by Russian and Syrian warplanes.
A separate New York Times article entitled “Putin in Syria: Chechnya all over again” made the comparison, too. It noted that the Russian president’s message to the world is the same now as it was then: “That he is bombing the Syrians for their own good, just like he bombed the Chechens. That war is peace.”
Grozny “is the operation Russian forces are drawing on as they carry out their air offensive on eastern Aleppo,” she wrote. “Like other journalists who covered that war in the Caucasus, I see clear parallels.”
“Moscow’s strategy to flush out up to 7,000 Chechen rebels from Grozny, once a city of 250,000 inhabitants, was to pound the whole place into oblivion…The carpet bombing of Grozny was aimed at emptying the city of its people, either by killing them or making them refugees.”
Much like Aleppo is today, Grozny was encircled by pro-government forces before being obliterated. In Grozny, though, an estimated 50,000 people were trapped as bombs rained down on them. Four times as many people, roughly 250,000, are under siege in rebel-held eastern Aleppo today, according to reports.
Russia has insisted that it is only targeting terrorists in Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city. But both Kerry and his British counterpart, Johnson, are reportedly weighing sanctions on Russia for its role in the offensive.
Kerry has also called for Russia to be investigated for war crimes over reports that its warplanes are targeting hospitals and rescue workers inside the city — reports that the Kremlin continues to deny.
She added: “It’s often been said, in the west, that there is no military solution in Syria. But a military ‘solution’ is very much what Moscow and the regime in Damascus are aiming for now — massacring civilians, creating a void that they will then call ‘pacification.'”
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