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Russia denies Syrian hospital bombing

UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura has met the country's foreign minister to discuss a cessation of hostilities. The meeting comes shortly after Russia was accused of bombing hospitals in the country, killing dozens.

The UN envoy met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem in Damascus on Tuesday to discuss a resumption of peace talks.

"We are witnessing a degradation on the ground that cannot wait," UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in Geneva, adding that peace talks were suspended because "cities were still being bombed, people were still being starved on the ground."

The UN's human rights spokesman Rupert Colville also condemned the deadly airstrikes in Syria a day earlier, in which nearly 50 people were killed.

"Clearly Syrian and Russian planes are very active in this area, they should know who is responsible... If it was deliberate, intentional targeting of those facilities, it could amount to a war crime," Colville said.

The UN's statements came a day after Turkey accused Russia of an "obvious war crime."

A spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday denied that Russia had bombed hospitals in northern Syria, saying

claims to the contrary

were "unsubstantiated accusations."

"We categorically reject and do not accept such statements," said Dmitry Peskov.

The UN confirmed on Tuesday that 50 people were killed in a series of

airstrikes on Syrian schools and hospitals

a day before. An internationally-scheduled truce has been set to come into effect this week, but signs indicate that the plan

will not be fully implemented

.

Watch video 01:49

Syrian hospitals hit by missiles

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said the strikes violated international law and "cast a shadow" over efforts to end Syria's five-year civil war.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also condemned the attacks, saying they constituted "war crimes."

There is no official word on who carried out the attacks, but the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights blamed Russia.

Syria's ambassador to Russia claimed on Monday, however, that US planes were responsible.

Both countries are carrying out airstrikes in Syria. Russia is targeting opponents of Syria's Assad regime, while the US and its coalition allies are aiming for targets associated with the so-called 'Islamic State.'

In an address to parliament on Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Russia's bombing of Syria was completely indiscriminate.

"Those vile, cruel and barbaric planes have made close to 8,000 sorties since September 30 without any discrimination between civilians and soldiers, or children and the elderly," he said.

More than 260,000 people have died since the civil war began in Syria in 2011. Millions have fled their homes with over 2.7 million seeking refuge in neighboring Turkey. Hundreds of thousands have made their way to Europe, creating a massive refugee crisis.

mz/rc (dpa, AFP, AP)

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