Facing accusations that their own brutal air campaign has inflicted heavy civilian casualties around the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo, creating a new stream of refugees en route to Turkey and Europe, the Russians blamed American warplanes for bombing civilian areas in Aleppo on Wednesday.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed no Russian planes were within 12 miles of Aleppo when it was bombed on Wednesday. He went on to explicitly blame the United States for the bombing.
“Yesterday, two A-10 attack aircraft of the U.S. Air Force entered Syrian airspace from … Turkey and, reaching Aleppo by the shortest path, made strikes against objects in the city,” Konashenkov claimed, as reported by CNN.
“Claims made by Russian officials of US air strikes in Aleppo are false. There have been no US missions flown in or around Aleppo today,” countered a U.S. State Department official. The UK Guardian reports that a Baghdad-based spokesman for the anti-Islamic State military coalition also denied Russia’s allegations.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that over 500 people, including dozens of civilians, have been killed since the Russian-supported Syrian government offensive in Aleppo began this month.
“Russia is trying to ethnically cleanse the region by striking opposition-held areas of northern Aleppo in an effort to force local residents to flee,” charged Abu Mahmoud, member of a local civil-defense committee, according to Middle East Eye. The Observatory went on to lay much of the blame for the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo on opposition forces as well.
Both the United Nations and the Turkish government have said Russian-backed Syrian forces are seeking to cut off Aleppo’s supply route to Turkey, aiming to “starve the population into submission,” as Reuters characterized Turkey’s suspicions. A rebel fighter told Reuters the area was seeing over 250 Russian airstrikes per day.
On Friday, hours after the announcement of a “cessation of hostilities” deal to allow humanitarian aid to reach besieged civilians in Syria, the Turkish government alleged that 16 civilians were killed by Russian bombing, including airstrikes that hit schools and hospitals.