Europe

Russia says thousands fleeing Aleppo as Assad nears victory

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, third left, and France's Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault, fifth left, attend a meeting with others on Syria in Paris, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Kerry, Ayrault and leading diplomats are trying to find solutions for Syria's desperate opposition, as Syrian government forces squeeze rebels out of Aleppo after a devastating blitz. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool)

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, third left, and France's Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault, fifth left, attend a meeting with others on Syria in Paris, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Kerry, Ayrault and leading diplomats are trying to find solutions for Syria's desperate opposition, as Syrian government forces squeeze rebels out of Aleppo after a devastating blitz. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • From left; British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, pose for a family picture prior to a meeting, in Paris, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Kerry and leading diplomats are trying to find solutions for Syria's desperate opposition, as Syrian government forces squeeze rebels out of Aleppo after a devastating blitz. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool)

    From left; British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, pose for a family picture prior to a meeting, in Paris, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Kerry and leading diplomats are trying to find solutions for Syria's desperate opposition, as Syrian government forces squeeze rebels out of Aleppo after a devastating blitz. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • Ministers and delegates attend a meeting on Syria in Paris, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and leading diplomats are trying to find solutions for Syria's desperate opposition, as Syrian government forces squeeze rebels out of Aleppo after a devastating blitz. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool)

    Ministers and delegates attend a meeting on Syria in Paris, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and leading diplomats are trying to find solutions for Syria's desperate opposition, as Syrian government forces squeeze rebels out of Aleppo after a devastating blitz. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

Russia says nearly 18,000 people have fled eastern Aleppo in the last 24 hours in a "constant stream" as Syrian government forces close in on the last pocket of opposition control in the northern city.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Saturday that Syrian troops have suspended their offensive to allow for the evacuation of civilians, but the activist-run Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says heavy clashes are still underway.

The Russian military's Center for Reconciliation in Syria says 17,971 civilians, including 7,542 children, have left rebel-controlled Aleppo districts in the last 24 hours.

Backed by Russia and other allies, Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces have driven the rebels from nearly all of eastern Aleppo, which was captured by the opposition in 2012.