'A Daily Holocaust.' Can Aleppo Survive Russia's Mideast Ambitions?
Russia is ramping up in the Middle East. The U.S. opened the door for President Vladimir Putin, and now he's doing everything he can to increase his power in the region.
Moscow has announced it's not planning more "humanitarian pauses" in its airstrikes in Aleppo, Syria, as it continues to pound away at Syrian rebels.
Russia has gained a great deal of influence and power in the region in just the last couple of years.
The mayor of Aleppo says what's happening to his besieged city is a "holocaust."
"We live a daily holocaust in Aleppo. Aleppo is burning every day," Mayor HajHassansaid.
Nearly 400 people, mainly civilians, have died in Aleppo since Syrian government forces, backed by Russian warplanes, launched an all-out offensive to retake control of the city last month. The U.S. has accused both countries of committing war crimes.
But Putin shot back, insisting his forces are targeting al Qaeda-linked terrorists who are using civilians as human shields.
"Unfortunately, wherever military operations take place, innocent people suffer and die. But we cannot allow terrorists to hide amongst civilians. We cannot allow them to blackmail the entire world when they take hostages, kill, or behead people," Putin said.
The U.N. is warning that if the bombardment doesn't stop, Aleppo will be completely destroyed by Christmas.
"So the appeal I want to launch is let's stop this massacre; let's save the population of Aleppo. It is never too late to make peace," French Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Ayrault said.
Meanwhile, Russia's military influence in Syria just got stronger. The Kremlin approved a deal that keeps its forces in the war-torn country indefinitely.
"Ratification of the agreement is in the key interests of the Russian Federation in the line of fighting against international terrorism," said Victor Ozerov, head of the Russian Federation Council's defense committee.
Russia's brutal air campaign has reversed the tide of war, allowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces to regain lost territory.
Moscow claims the goal has always been about helping the Syrian army fight against radical Islamic forces.
The Kremlin has long insisted it has wanted to avoid a Libya-like scenario taking place in Syria where the government was overthrown and that allowed elements of the Islamic State to gain a foothold.
But while Russia says it's fighting Islamic terrorism, Moscow's dominance in the Middle East is on the rise.
Two years ago, Russia barely had a military presence in the region. Now experts say its "fighter jets and missiles are flying over Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi airspace."