Syrian children play in Afrin, Syria. Russian and Syrian officials said Wednesday the United States should completely withdraw its forces from the country. File Photo by Aref Tammawi/EPA-EFE
Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Russia and Syria urged the United States Wednesday to get out of the Middle Eastern nation and allow those at a refugee camp be evacuated.
Syrian government officials and the Russian defense ministry said refugees at the Rukban camp in southeast Syria have been guaranteed safe evacuation so they can start new lives.
"Armed groups controlled by the United States, headed by Mahavir as-Saura, actually forcibly detain refugees who wish to leave the camp and demand significant amounts [of money] for the exit," the officials said in a joint statement.
"The U.S. is trying to shift the responsibility of this situation to the Syrian and Russian sides," Syrian and Russian leaders said.
"We urge the United States to release illegally detained residents of the Rukban camp to ensure their right to free access to places of permanent residence. ... We also call the United States, whose military units are located illegally in Syria, to leave the country."
A United Nations report said Tuesday there are 41,000 in the Rukban camp, mostly women and children who are in "a dire humanitarian situation." The report said the refugees face hunger and lack "most basic necessities."
State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said this month the United States welcomed news that food, medical and humanitarian aid had been delivered to the camp.
The White House said recently 400 U.S. troops will remain in Syria as peacekeepers -- 200 in Kurdish-controlled areas and 200 at Tanf garrison, near the Rukban camp.
In December, President Donald Trump said the United States would completely withdraw forces from the battle-scarred nation. He's said the withdrawal is motivated by the defeat of the Islamic State terror group, a claim many experts have refuted.