Russian military forces have delivered food and provided medical assistance to the residents of Raqqa in the first such humanitarian mission aimed at helping civilians who are struggling to survive in the city scarred by war.
The first column of Russian military trucks loaded with food and medical supplies entered the capital of Syria’s northern province on Monday.
Once designated as the unofficial capital of the notorious Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), the city was recaptured by the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in 2017 after spending three years under extremist rule. However, what was hailed as “liberation” in the West turned into misery for the locals, as two-thirds of Raqqa was virtually destroyed in a massive bombing campaign launched by the US-led coalition during a four-month battle for the city, with corpses left rotting in the streets.
“In 2017, the social and economic infrastructure of Raqqa was totally destroyed in a US-led coalition’s operation aimed at liberating it,” Vladimir Varnavsky, an officer with the Russian Reconciliation Center, who arrived in Raqqa with the convoy, told journalists. “The airstrikes resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians.”
He also drew attention to the fact that debris clearing and demining works have still not been finished in the city more than two years after it was freed from terrorists. Food, clean water and medical supplies are lacking as well. A video showing the arrival of the Russian convoy shows the trucks moving along dusty roads that were once the city’s streets but are now surrounded by ruins.
Whole sections of the city appear to have been leveled to the ground, others are seriously damaged. However, life is slowly returning even to these ruins. The footage shows scores of children welcoming the trucks with loud cheers and waving hands. Russia plans to coordinate its efforts with the Syrian government to restore infrastructure in this city, as has already happened in Damascus and Aleppo.
For now, the Russian military has set up a post in Raqqa to deliver humanitarian aid to the locals. According to Varnavsky, the military distributed “several thousands of food rations” among the locals on Monday, while Russian medics provided them with medical assistance.
“These are just the first steps aimed at stabilizing the situation and resolving the humanitarian crisis,” Varnavsky said.