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Russia closes consulate in Aleppo

  |   Jan. 15, 2013 at 10:52 AM
ALEPPO, Syria, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The Russian Consulate in Aleppo, Syria, has suspended operations, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy Damascus said Tuesday.

Because operations have ceased in Aleppo, the spokesman said, all consular-related issues are to be directed to the embassy, RIA Novosti reported.

Aleppo, Syria's largest city and about 211 miles north of Damascus, has experienced months of vicious fighting between government forces and rebel groups seeking the ouster of President Bashar Assad.

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.

Russia has come under heavy international criticism for its refusal to back U.N. sanctions against Syria. Moscow has denied it is backing Assad, citing concerns the president's forced departure would only worsen the conflict.

At least 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict that began in March 2011, the United Nations estimates. Other organizations have said the number is higher.

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