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Russia-Ukraine war: Syrians offer tips on how to survive the invasion

After Russia's 2015 intervention, citizens of war-torn Syria have advice for Ukrainians on how to survive the invasion
Syrians protest in front of a Turkish military vehicle before incoming joint Turkish and Russian patrols southeast of the city of Idlib, on 15 March 2020 (AFP)

For some civilians in Syria's northwest, the last opposition-held region of the war-ravaged country, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine recalls their own plight.

Having backed Syria's Bashar al-Assad in the protracted civil war, Russia has committed at least 357 mass killings of civilians in Syria since it began its military operations in the country in 2015, according to the UK-based Syrian Network for Human Rights.

Russia has also launched more than 1,200 attacks on vital facilities, including hospitals, schools and markets, and used its veto 16 times for Assad at the UN Security Council, according to the NGO.  

Six days into the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has yet to achieve its aim of overthrowing Ukraine's government, but has, according to the Ukrainian emergency service, killed hundreds of civilians and destroyed hospitals, nurseries and homes.

In the days since the war in Ukraine began, Syrians have been sharing tips online about living in a war zone and surviving Russian attacks.

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One Idlib resident, Ahmad al-Abdallah, wrote a Twitter thread for Ukrainians.

“Russia likes attacking infrastructure," he wrote.

“When you hear the missile it’s probably flying by," he added, "you probably can't hear the missile that comes to you.”

“Beware of certain 'unexploded bombs', some are designed to kill on proximity,” he wrote.

One Syrian Twitter user, commenting on Abdallah’s thread, wrote “[these are] very important tips, take it from a Syrian… Russia usually plays dirty, all hits are under the belt.”

Some have urged that the tips be translated into Ukrainian, to reach as many people as possible.

Abdul Jabbar Akaidi, a former general and spokesperson for the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, spoke to the Washington Post earlier this week, with his own advice.

"I would say to not rely on the international community, to not rely on the United States, because they gave Putin a blank cheque and an open hand in Syria," he said.

“You have a courageous and brave president. You have a courageous and brave leadership. Band around them,” Akaidi added.

Russia-Ukraine war: How Syrians in Idlib feel about crisis
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Addressing Ukrainians directly, he said, “Just know that you are more powerful than people think. Band together and fight them as long as you can... We believe in you. We are praying for you to last.”

Aziz al-Asmar, a resident of Idlib, told MEE earlier this week: “Russia does not care about shedding the blood of thousands of innocent people, for its own interests.

“We have suffered a lot by false Russian promises. I hope the Ukrainians will not suffer.”

Russia entered Syria in 2015, when Assad was struggling to fend off rebel forces, and its intervention is widely attributed to Assad remaining in power to this day.

Analysts have also noted that Russia’s campaign in Syria gave it an “ideal theatre to test and refine its military capabilities and weapons... nourishing its appetite for power”.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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