''The war in Syria continues. How are journalists who have reported on its completion going to cover it?''

Is Syria liberated from the militants? The column by Middle Eastern journalist Anhar Kochneva

A number of local publications have recently reported on liberation of Syria from the militants. It was followed by the official statement on withdrawal of Russian troops from the Arab country and a visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the air base Hmeimim. Anhar Kochneva, a columnist for Realnoe Vremya, in today's newspaper column written for our newspaper, adjusts her fellow journalists: not entire Syria has been liberated from the armed gangs. In addition to ISIS prohibited in Russia, there are operating other rebel groups in the Middle Eastern country, against which it is already the soldiers of Bashar al-Assad who will have to fight.

Dark enclaves

Putin's lightning visit to the airbase in Syria has finally taken off the intrigue of what was happening in Russian media sphere last week. To untold astonishment of those who know the real situation of people in the country as well as Syrians speaking Russian, the Russian media trumpeted about a complete victory over bandits in Syria.

The television was showing a small group of people in a totally peaceful Latakia, coming to a meeting on a Victory which in Syria no one has seen. Russian media publicly reported that in Syria there have left no settlements captured by terrorists. All terrorists, as evident from these statements, have been crushed: they have been destroyed or fled.

At the same time, practically the entire province of Idlib is being in the hands of militants of various stripes, including the notorious Al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda (the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and al-Qaeda are prohibited in Russia — editor's note). This enclave, in addition to the territory of the province, abuts being in the same tainted with blood hands pieces of the provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Homs. Several million civilians have being blocked in this enclave for already five years. Normal life for them in many respects has stopped: education, freedom of movement around Syria and beyond its borders, work and commercial activities, healthcare and so on.

Such enclaves (but smaller) exist in the provinces of Quneitra, Daraa and even in close proximity to the Syrian capital, Damascus. In the hands of these insurgents, about whom for some reason the Russian media and officials have forgotten, there are many monuments of history, daily subjected to if not destruction then looting. Hundreds of Byzantine settlements, known as Dead cities, ancient Apamea, built of black basalt by the Romans from Bosra, and many other 'exhibits' of Syria — this museum under the open sky – are being in danger.

''Putin's lightning visit to the airbase in Syria has finally taken off the intrigue of what was happening in Russian media sphere last week.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

Not ISIS alone

Someone, remaining anonymous, created the preconditions for what is happening now, already two years ago: that time all Russian media (including my friends — Russian war correspondents) suddenly as if at the command began to call all operating militants in Syria as ISIS (the organization banned in Russia — editor's note). According to them, it is ISIS, for example, destroyed the Syrian town of Maaloula, whose people still speak the ancient Aramaic language at household level. However, in Maaloula there were the 'best' enemies and ISIS's competitors — al-Nusra and the Farouq Brigades (in captivity of the latter I was 5 years ago). All air strikes, as followed from the official statements, were applied exclusively to the ISIS positions. This rightly caused a wave of criticism: in some areas, where Russian aviation operated, there were bandits of completely different colour.

Now when ISIS has really been almost completely destroyed (although it is with very big reservations), it is improper to remember that in addition to ISIS, how every Barmaley without exception were called, there have left some other large enclaves, which are not only not subjected to the government of Syria, but are little different from those who were 'forced to peace'.

Many Syrian speakers on Syrian TV also wonder that it was promised a fight against terrorism, but not only with one — even the most bloodthirsty — militant group. Why not say, for example, that we have helped you, then do it yourself? Why is it necessary to say that there are no more problems?

''In Maaloula there were the 'best' enemies and ISIS's competitors — al-Nusra and the Farouq Brigades.'' Photo: pravda.ru

Meanwhile, there are being heated debates on the Internet. Those who know everything 'from TV' ridicule those who understand the situation and trying to convey to the opponents that a 'celebration with tears in the eyes' in Syria is out of the question. Because the given and, of course, important victory is just another step, but in no way the final action in the matter of country's return to peaceful life. And it's not about killing of separate bandits, but about actually continuing to exist huge enclaves. From which, for example, they continue to bombard with mines Damascus (a husband of a citizen of Belarus has recently been injured). In which thousands kidnapped people are still languishing. In which it is impossible to restore electricity, to organize the delivery of medicine and food.

The winners usually tell the truth

Evil tongues attribute the statements about the mythical 'complete liberation of Syria' with the upcoming elections, saying that they need to finish the military operation and to bring everyone who was taking part in it home. And it is possible to return them only after a full and unconditional victory over the enemy. And there also should not be territories occupied by the enemy when it is a complete victory. And there are not. In official statements.

Syrians and those who take the tragedy of this country hard are grateful to the Russian VKS for its help. But winners usually tell the truth. Russian viewers and readers are not small children who cannot perceive the real picture. People can understand undertones. They would understand that in Syria there are operating hundreds of different militant groups, and that it is necessary to deal with each of them. That the Russian VKS has destroyed the most dangerous enemy and that the Syrian army will continue to solve no less complex tasks by itself. However, someone has decided everything for the people by making up a beautiful story for them. Meanwhile, the war in Syria continues. How my colleagues, who have reported on its completion, are going to cover it, I don't know.

By Anhar Kochneva