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Russia says Turkey trying to push 130,000 refugees from Syria into Greece

Russia on Tuesday said that Turkey was trying to push 130,000 refugees from Syria into Greece, the Interfax news agency cited the Defense Ministry.

Two-thirds of these refugees – that Turkey is pushing from temporary camps in Syria – are Afghans, Iraqis and Africans, not Syrians, it added.

On March 3, the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria released an official comment on the ongoing Turkish-led media campaign claimng that “millions” of refugees are fleeing Syria’s Idlib zone. The statement says that these claims as well as reports about the “humanitarian crisis” as a result of the escalation in Idlib are false.

According to the head of the Russian Center, Oleg Juravlev, the Russian side is regularly monitoring the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone using UAVs, local contacts, as well as open sources.

Juravlev provided the following numbers:

  • In 2011, the population within the boundaries of the Idlib de-escalation zone was 2.6 million people. Approximately 800,000 people left the area before the start of military hostilities. They moved to central Syria, Turkey and some European countries.
  • As of January 1, 2020, there were no more than 1.8 million people on the territory controlled by terrorists in the Idlib zone.
  • Up to 210,000 people were living in the area liberated by the Syrian Army in January-Feruary 2020. Additionally, up to 50,000 people were living in the area of the Syrian Army operation in southern Idlib, south of the M4 highway.

The Russian military emphasized that during this period, no more than 35,000 people left the area of hostilities and moved to Turkey. These people were mostly fighters of militant groups (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Turkistan Islamic Party, Horas al-Dion) and members of their families. Up to 50,000 people moved from the area of hostilities towards the Turkish-controlled Syrian region of Afrin, and noe more than 100,000 others moved towards the Syrian border with Turkey.

In total, no more than 70,000 people moved from the Idlib de-escalation zone to the area of Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch (Afrin). Currently, there are about 200,000 temporarily displaced persons near Turkish border. 85,000 of them are in the refugee camps “Hazano”, “Sarmada”, “Sheikh Hassan”, “Baskaria”, “Darkush”, ” Salkin. ”

The Russian side added that Turkey’s operations Olive Branch and Peace Spring led to the displacement of a large number of people. Operation Olive Branch forced up to 250,000 people (mostly Kurds) to leave their homes and flee the area, while Operation Peace Spring displaced 135,000 people.

The Center warned that the Turkish policy of settlement of ethnic Turkomans on the territories captured from the Kurds has already led to a radical change in the ethnic composition of the population in these areas.

The Russian military once again emphasized that claims that Syrian anti-terrorist efforts in the Idlib zone in January-February 2020 led to a “humanitarian crisis” are biased and completely untrue.