The United Nations Security Council on October 8 will vote on two competing resolutions to stop fighting in Syria, one from Russia and the other from France, in a showdown that is likely to end in a diplomatic stalemate.
The council will first vote on a French proposal to stop all aerial bombardments of Aleppo by Russian and Syrian forces, in a move designed to put Russia on the spot by forcing it to defend the killing of hundreds of civilians if, as expected, it vetoes the measure.
The council debate is likely to prominently feature accusations from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other top Western leaders that Russia and Syria are guilty of "war crimes" for intentionally bombing hospitals and civilians in Aleppo.
The vote will be a "moment of truth for all the members of the Security Council," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on October 7. "Do you want a cease-fire in Aleppo, yes or no? And the question is in particular for our Russian partner."
But Russian officials made no secret that they would veto the French resolution, saying it amounts to asking for a "unilateral withdrawal" from the fighting because rebel ground forces could continue to bomb government strongholds in Aleppo.
"We see this as a political blackmail attempt," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency.
"Unfortunately, there has been less and less common sense in Washington's and Paris's actions. The stakes are extremely high."
Following the vote on France's proposal, the council will vote on a Russian resolution urging the immediate implementation of a U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement that was abandoned last month as a result of the escalation of fighting in Aleppo.
The United States, France, and other western powers are expected to veto the Russian proposal.
"This is a cynical attempt to divert attention away from the bombing of Aleppo," British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said.
Russia continues to insist that its bombing campaign is targeting "terrorists."
On October 7, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had killed about 35,000 militants in Syria since last year, including 2,700 Russians who joined Islamic militant groups fighting in Syria.
As an alternative to its own resolution, Russia is also backing a proposal by the UN's Syrian envoy Steffan de Mistura to help an Al-Qaeda-linked militant group evacuate from Aleppo so it no longer poses an excuse for Russia and Syria to keep bombing the city.
However, the group, Fatah al-Sham Front, formerly the Al-Nusra Front, rejected that offer on October 7, saying on Twitter that it is "determined to break the siege" on the city's rebel-held neighborhoods by Russia and the Syrian regime.
With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and Interfax