Civilians have accused the Russian military of dropping “cluster bombs” while supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime’s offensive in northern Syria’s Aleppo province.
Many people have been uprooted by the Russian-backed offensive in Aleppo.
“The Russian airstrikes were even more destructive than the regime’s,” a civilian told BBC as he was fleeing Aleppo, which shares a border with Turkey. “They dropped cluster bombs over us, and so we came to the [refugee] camps, but again they hit us with cluster bombs there.”
“We left Syria because we couldn’t live there anymore. Not only did we have Bashar al-Assad to deal with, but now we have Russia,” added another fleeing civilian. “God knows who’s going to come next. It’s become a World War. We’re escaping bombing and destruction because we want to live. We have young children; they’re in terror.”
Although the United States, human rights groups, locals, and military experts have accused the Russian military of dropping cluster bombs in Syria, Moscow has denied it.
Cluster munitions are known as imprecise “dumb” bombs that are more likely to kill bystanders.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney recently told The Washington Times that Russia is flying more sorties over Syria than the United States, adding that Moscow is dropping unguided bombs that kill civilians indiscriminately and “intimidate” the rebels.
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch reported evidence that Russia unleashed a new advanced type of cluster munition in Aleppo, noting that its finding “coincides with a surge of video and photographic reports of air-dropped and ground-launched cluster munition attacks in the governorates of Aleppo, Hama, and Idlib since Russia started its air campaign in Syria on September 30.”
Army Col. Steve Warren, the top U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, told Pentagon reporters on Oct. 21 that Russia had conducted nearly 140 airstrikes, including cluster bombs, displacing 35,000 civilians.
“The Russians have been indiscriminate,” said Col. Warren. “They’ve been reckless in Syria. They seem to have no difficulty dropping cluster munitions around where civilians may be. They do not appear to be, based on their actions, they do not appear to be interested in defeating [the Islamic State]. They appear to be interested in preserving the Assad regime.”
Russia responded by mocking Col. Warren’s comments as “airy dreams” and portraying its own bombing campaign as more robust than the one being carried out by the U.S.-led coalition.
“Airy dreams of Colonel Steven Warren concerning using cluster munitions by the Russian aviation in ‘inhabited areas’ of Syria are absurd,” the Russians Defense Ministry reportedly said. “It appears that the American colleagues have not established their aims in the announced war against the ISIS terrorist organization. This may be why the terrorists feel comfortable a year after the start of the anti-ISIS coalition’s operations.”
While the Russian air force is accused of deploying cluster bombs in Syria, the U.S.-led coalition has reportedly been dropping precision-guided munitions there.
An excess of 100 countries have signed a pact prohibiting the use of cluster bombs. Although the U.S. did not sign the agreement, it began phasing out operational use of cluster bombs in 2003.
“Russia is one of the few countries to continue producing and deploying cluster bombs on a wide scale,” noted The Daily Beast.
The Kremlin’s air campaign in Syria has killed nearly 400 people, many of them civilians.
According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of ground sources to monitor the conflict in Syria, the Russian military carried out airstrikes in Aleppo over the weekend in support of the Assad regime.
This month alone, the United Nations revealed in a statement issued over the weekend, at least 120,000 people have been displaced in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Hama, and Idleb.