Russia Orders Five-Hour Ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta

The ability of Russian President Vladimir Putin to influence events in Syria will come to bear Tuesday as the window opened for a five-hour ceasefire he ordered in Eastern Ghouta, CNN writes.

Russia has ordered an humanitarian corridor to open to allow people to be evacuated, but there was no mention of whether medical or food supplies would be able to enter the area.

Inside, some 400,000 people are under siege, having endured relentless bombardment from a Syrian government offensive from the air and recently also on the ground. The offensive is now entering its second week.

Russia is the Syrian regime’s key ally in a civil war that has plagued the country for almost seven years, with heavy fighting now centered on Eastern Ghouta, an area near Damascus, CNN adds.

Russian intervention, with troops and weaponry, has helped tilt the balance in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favor. A United Nations resolution on Saturday calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria appears to have done little to halt the fighting. It wasn’t clear from the UN resolution when the ceasefire was meant to come into effect, or how it would be enforced.

According to Britain’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Jonathan Allen, Russia’s announcement of a five-hour pause in fighting was not considered to be the implementation of the ceasefire.

“But it does show that it can be implemented. So Russia can implement if it chooses to. If it’s able to do a five-hour pause, it’s able to do a 24-hour pause. So it’s up to Russia whether it wants to implement fully the resolution that it signed up to and voted for, or whether it wants to play cynical games.” Allen stated.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN Secretary General, said aid workers were waiting to enter the area. “We stand ready as soon as the conditions are safe for truck drivers, humanitarian workers to roll into these areas,” Dujarric said during the daily UN press briefing.

“We need to ensure that there are no roadblocks, whether physical or administrative. Whether five hours is enough or is not enough is a difficult question to answer. Five hours is better than no hours.” Dujarric noted.