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Syria

Russia and Syria declare brief 'humanitarian pause' in Aleppo, on October 20

Moscow and Damascus have announced an eight-hour cessation of violence in the besieged city of Aleppo, to take place on Thursday. This coincides with an EU meeting criticizing Russia and Syria's role in Aleppo's clashes.

From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  (1000 - 1800 GMT/UTC) Russian bombers will be grounded, and Syrian troops will hold their ground fire to allow civilians, as well as the wounded, to flee the besieged rebel-held sector of Aleppo.

Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said two corridors will be opened to allow people to exit the city.

The United States and its European allies have been demanding an extended ceasefire in the embattled city, but Russia has refused, saying it would only give rebels a chance to regroup.

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Rudskoi accused the West of turning a blind eye as rebels in Aleppo kill civilians.

"Given the situation, a unilateral ceasefire makes no sense, since Jaghat al-Nusra and groups allied to it will once again be given a breather, will regroup and restore their military capability," he said, referring to a rebel group formerly allied with al Qaeda.

He insisted that Russia was working with other powers to try and create a sustainable peace agreement in Aleppo but said that would take time, and offered up the eight-hour ceasefire as a humanitarian gesture.

"We have taken a decision not to waste time and to introduce 'humanitarian pauses', mainly for the free passage of civilians, evacuation of the sick and wounded and withdrawal of fighters," Rudskoi said at a press briefing. "During this period the Russian air force and Syrian government troops will halt air strikes and firing from any other types of weapons."

EU slams Russian bombing

The European Union has slammed Russia for its relentless bombing assault on the city, which it says has caused "untold suffering," and "may amount to war crimes."

Despite the EU's strong criticism of Russia, its 28 foreign ministers chose not to impose new sanctions against Russia during a Monday meeting in Luxembourg.

"At present, I don't see how sanctions with a possible long-term effect are supposed to contribute to improving supplies to the civilian population," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. "So I am not the only one who, in this case, is rather skeptical about sanctions."

The EU's foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, called the brief ceasefire "a positive step," but added that UN agencies say that least 12 hours would be needed for such an operation to succeed.

"I believe that there will be a little bit of work to be done to find the common ground," she said.

The EU imposed sanction on Syria some time ago, and they were extended in May, through June 2017. More than 200 people and dozens of entities, including companies, have had their assets frozen, and been barred from travelling.Seperately, the Washington and London are also discussing amping-up sanctions against Moscow.French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Russia would find a willing partner in the West when it comes to supporting counter-terrorism efforts. But he insisted that  "everything possible must be done to stop the bombing and allow humanitarian aid ... to get to the population."

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