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Russia extends Aleppo truce by 24 hours: defence minister

Russia’s defence minister said Thursday that Moscow was extending a “humanitarian pause” in Aleppo scheduled to end at 1600 GMT by a further day.

On the order of President Vladimir Putin, “a decision was made to extend the ‘humanitarian pause’ by 24 hours,” minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement, adding that Syrian authorities had agreed to the extension.

Shoigu did not specify when the extended truce would end. The UN said earlier it had received a pledge from Moscow to extend it until Saturday.

Russia, facing growing criticism of the brutal Moscow-backed assault on the city, said this week that its forces and Syrian regime troops would briefly halt fire in Aleppo on Thursday.

Moscow said Tuesday that Russian and Syrian warplanes had stopped bombing Aleppo to pave the way for the humanitarian truce.

The Russian defence ministry has said the ceasefire would enable civilians and armed rebels to leave the city’s rebel-held east through six corridors.

After Syria talks with the French and German leaders, Putin said Thursday that Russia intended to extend the halt in its air strikes against Aleppo “as far as possible.”

The UN said it hoped to carry out the first medical evacuations from Aleppo on Friday, after having received clearance from all warring parties and a pledge from Russia to extend the truce until Saturday.

The West has accused Moscow of perpetrating potential war crimes in Aleppo through indiscriminate bombing to support Syrian government efforts to retake total control over the city.