Hundreds of mannequin limbs have been placed outside the entrance to the Russian embassy in protest against the killing of civilians in Aleppo by Russian forces.
The Syria Campaign and Syria Solidarity UK blockaded the front of the building in west London with 800 adult and child-sized limbs on Thursday, while two activists locked themselves to the entrance gates.
Campaigners said the fake body parts represented the horrific injuries afflicting civilians as a result of Moscow’s attacks on the besieged city.
Rebel fighters took control of eastern Aleppo in 2012 and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have been waging a major offensive to take it back.
East Aleppo is the last major urban stronghold of the official Syrian opposition. Retaking it would greatly shift the balance towards the regime - bolstering Mr Assad’s position.
Russia’s parliament voted to assist the Syrian regime militarily in September 2015. Since then, Moscow has deployed around 30 jets to its airbase near Latakia, as well as air-defence systems in a show of strength to Western powers.
The bombardment of eastern Aleppo has come at the expense of the civilians still living in the besieged city, with rising death tolls and allegations of attacks on hospitals. It is understood around 250,000 people are trapped in the rebel-held area desperate for food, fuel and medical supplies.
Mr Assad launched a renewed attack on the estimated 8,000 fighters left in east Aleppo in September. The unprecedented bombing, aided by Russian-manufactured illegal munitions such as cluster bombs, white phosphorous and ‘bunker busters’, has been some of the bloodiest of Syria’s almost six-year-long conflict, leaving more than 500 people dead.
The recent renewed campaign on Aleppo has been condemned as a war crime by the UN and Western governments, many of whom have drawn parallels with Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic, which was besieged by Russia between 1999 - 2000.
Campaigners set up the mannequin structure at 2pm, calling on Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to increase pressure on Russia, including announcing new sanctions against Russian financial interest in the UK.
John Dunford from the Syria Campaign, who was one of the protestors locked on to the embassy gates, said: “We’re here because innocent children are being killed in their beds, while doctors are being bombed just for trying to save the lives of others. The Russian government and the Assad regime are committing these war crimes in Aleppo and things could be about to get even worse.
“It shouldn’t be up to activists like me to say this – the UK government should be doing far more to protect the innocent and stand up against this barbarity.”
Amr Salahi from Syria Solidarity UK who was at the protest said: “We have to stop the bombs. We have to stop the attacks on schools, on hospitals, on aid workers. We have to act now to stop Russia and the regime willfully killing children, mothers and fathers, the deliberate starving of the old, the deliberate targeting of doctors and nurses.
“The Russian government claims to be fighting terror, but bombing aid trucks is not fighting terror. They are inflicting terror on Syria and on all of us, and we reject their propaganda.”
“The bombing of Aleppo is not just an attack on Syrians. It is an attack on humanitarian law. The Russian government and Assad are shredding international agreements and laws that exist for the protection of all of us. To save Syria is to save ourselves.”
Police were called to the Russian embassy and the structure was dismantled and the campaigners unlocked from the gates by 3pm.
Responding to the protest, the Russian embassy said in a statement: "The unwillingness of the British Government to ensure normal operation and security of the Russian diplomatic mission in London has caused deep concern with the Russian Embassy.
"Today, a protest action by a group of people interrupted the work of the Embassy as the entrance to the Consular Section was blocked up with a heap of mannequin body parts, while the protestors handcuffed themselves to the gate. As a result, the mission staff and visitors were unable to enter the premises of the Embassy. The security of the Russian diplomatic mission in the UK was compromised. Police officers remained indifferent in the face of the openly provocative and disorderly conduct of the “demonstrators”. Moreover, nuisance callers blocked the Embassy telephone line rendering it impossible to contact the mission for genuine callers.
"One is under the impression that this disruptive 'protest action' has been thoroughly planned, which is not surprising in the context of the recent official statement in Parliament by Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson encouraging to hold protests outside the Russian Embassy in London.
"It’s worth mentioning that today’s manifestation near the Embassy has been accompanied by an ongoing anti-Russian campaign in the media inspired by some statements of the British officials. The Russian diplomatic mission has forwarded a Note of Protest to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office."
Russia dispatched its largest military surface deployment since the Cold War two weeks ago - which included eight warships and the country’s only aircraft carrier - which are due to arrive at the Syrian Mediterranean city of Latakia as soon as Wednesday.
Earlier this month he warned that east Aleppo could face “total destruction” by Christmas and thousands more could die if the current assault on the city is not stopped.
Additional reporting by Press Association
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