Russia marks one year in Syria with denials | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 30.09.2016
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Russia marks one year in Syria with denials

An independent war monitor has attributed more than 3,800 civilian deaths to Russia since it entered the conflict. But Moscow has again rejected claims it is implicated in war crimes committed in Syria.

Russia killed more than 9,000 people in Syria since it entered the conflict last September, backing forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday. 

The war monitor, which uses a nationwide network of informants on the ground, said it determined the death toll by identifying Russian aircraft involved in airstrikes by their type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.

At least 3,800 of the casualties were civilians, the observatory reported. Moscow, however, dismissed the allegations.

"We do not consider as reliable the information … from this organization, which is based in the United Kingdom," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

But this is not the first time Russia dismissed information implicating its jets in atrocities committed during the Syrian war.

On Monday, Moscow took to the UN Security Council to lash out against the United States and Britain over accusations that the Russian military was involved in war crimes in Syria. British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said the bombing of an aid convoy in Aleppo last week would "constitute a war crime" if intentional. Russia has denied a role in the convoy airstrike.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon later Friday announced the creation of a board of inquiry to investigating the aid convoy bombing that left 18 people dead.

The inquiry "will ascertain the factor of the incident" and report to the UN chief, who will "decide what further steps to take," said a statement from the international organization.

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'Daily bombing'

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday condemned the siege of Aleppo after a telephone call with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, saying more needed to be done to ensure a ceasefire beyond 48 hours.

"The daily bombing of innocent children, women and men must finally come to an end. Those who want to combat terrorism do not attack hospitals," Steinmeier's office said in a statement.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told CNN on Friday that events in Aleppo were making it harder to have faith in diplomacy bringing an end to the Syrian war.

"It's hard to continue to believe in a diplomatic process here given what's happening on the ground," Toner said on CNN.

US Secretary of State John Kerry had said on Thursday that Washington was close to ending talks with Russia on Syria, but the US has yet to announce that it is cutting off the talks.

'A giant kill box'

The aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) accused Syria and Russia of causing a "bloodbath" in Aleppo, saying the city has become a "giant kill box."

Since the operation to recapture Aleppo has started over a week ago, hospitals that are still functional have received more than 800 wounded, including at least 221 children and more than 278 people were pronounced dead, including at least 96 children, according to MSF.

In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council on Friday voted to convene a panel aimed at reviewing human rights abuses in Syria, including testimonies from witnesses.

The resolution - passed by a vote of 26-7 with 14 abstentions - condemned the siege of rebel-held Aleppo "conducted by forces loyal to the Syrian authorities," urging them to immediately end "the indiscriminate bombing of the civilian population."

The Syrian army, backed by Russian airstrikes, launched its latest offensive on rebel-held Aleppo after a US-Russia brokered ceasefire collapsed earlier this month. More than 300 civilians have been killed in Aleppo since the campaign began less than two weeks ago, including at least 40 children.

The war in Syria has entered its sixth year, leaving more than 300,000 people dead and half the population displaced. The conflict erupted in 2011, when government forces launched a bloody crackdown on peaceful protesters calling for Assad to step down.

ls/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)
 

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