Russia asks UN to blacklist 2 powerful Syrian rebel groups

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia says it has asked the U.N. Security Council to blacklist two powerful Syrian rebel groups that it considers “terrorist organizations,” one which is playing a key role in political negotiations aimed at ending the five-year conflict.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters Wednesday that the two hardline Islamic groups — Jaish al-Islam, or the Army of Islam, and Ahrar al-Sham — aren’t observing the cessation of hostilities in Syria “and are engaged in terrorist activities” and therefore should be subject to sanctions.

Mohammed Alloush, a leading figure in Jaish al-Islam which is backed by Saudi Arabia, heads the main opposition group at the Geneva talks.

New Zealand’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen said Russia’s request was raised during a closed-door council meeting Wednesday and sparked controversy.