DAMASCUS, January 15 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Consulate General in the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo has suspended operations, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The operations of the Russian Federation's Consulate General in Aleppo have been suspended,” the statement said. “Regarding all issues, contact the consular department of the Russian Embassy in Damascus.”
The ministry's statement confirmed an earlier report from the Russian Embassy in Syria.
Aleppo, Syria's largest city, 340 kilometers (211 miles) north of the capital Damascus, has been the scene of months of vicious fighting between government forces and rebel groups. Most of Aleppo is controlled by the Free Syrian Army, an armed opposition group. The city's residents are suffering shortages of food and electricity.
Aleppo Governor Mohammed Wahid Akkad said at least 80 civilians were killed and many more injured by two blasts in Aleppo University on Tuesday. The death toll was confirmed by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The monitoring body said the cause of the explosions was unclear, but the city has previously been hit by government airstrikes as well as rebel car bombs.
At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict since March 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said, citing new analysis released by the United Nations in early January.
Russia has faced heavy international criticism over its refusal to back UN sanctions against Syria, its last ally in the Arab world, over what it called the pro-rebel bias of some resolutions proposed by western nations. Moscow denies it is backing President Bashar Assad and says it is concerned the Syrian president’s enforced departure would only worsen the conflict.
Updated with Russian Foreign Ministry confirmation, new death toll.