Russia has rejected calls to stop arming and training Bashar al-Assad's regime, despite evidence that its weapons are being used against civilians. "Russia enjoys good and strong military technical co-operation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it," Russia's deputy defense minister said yesterday, insisting that existing contracts will be honored. The two countries have been closely linked for decades and Syria hosts Russia's only naval base outside the former Soviet Union, the Independent notes.
The evidence is mounting as to how brutal Syria's crackdown on the year-old uprising has been: In a report out today, Amnesty International found that Assad's regime regularly tortures prisoners using sticks, rifle butts, cords, and sexual assault, reports the AP. In addition to the 7,500 estimated killed so far, the crackdown continues to claim dozens of lives daily and human rights groups say land mines have been planted along the routes refugees are using to flee the violence. Assad's forces have now recaptured most of Idlib, a rebel stronghold near the border with Turkey that had been held by hundreds of military defectors, the AP reports. (Read more Russia stories.)