PHOTO: A devastated market in Ariha in Idlib Province after a Russian airstrike on November 29
UPDATE 1900 GMT: The Russian Ministry of Defense has used Twitter to threaten Amnesty International over its report:
#FAKEAI Amnesty International, reveal who and when provided you with this so-called data or it will be done by the Rus MoD itself
— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) December 23, 2015
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Complementing the findings of other NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Medicins Sans Frontieres, Amnesty International has concluded, “Russian air strikes in Syria have killed hundreds of civilians and caused massive destruction in residential areas, striking homes, a mosque and a busy market, as well as medical facilities, in a pattern of attacks that show evidence of violations of international humanitarian law.”
Amnesty’s report documents six attacks in Homs, Idlib, and Aleppo Provinces that killed at least 200 civilians and about a dozen fighters. It says the evidence indicates that Russian authorities lied to cover up damage to infrastructure and civilian sites, including a mosque and a hospital, and that Moscow used banned cluster munitions and unguided bombs on residential areas.
The report is based on interviews with eyewitnesses and survivors of attacks and examination of videos and photographs. The evidence was cross-referenced with statements from the Russian Defense Ministry about “terrorist” targets.
Research into these strikes indicate that there were no military targets or fighters in the immediate vicinity of the areas that were struck. This suggests that the attacks may have violated international humanitarian law and may, in some circumstances, constitute war crimes.
The attacks investigated include Russian strikes on Ariha on November 29 in Idlib Province, killing 49 civilians, and bombing of al-Ghanto in Homs Province on October 15 that killed at least 46 civilians, including 32 children and 11 women.
Amnesty’s findings were published hours after Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a television interview:
I am terribly afraid of any war. I had a grandma whom I loved very much and I believe she also loved me. When I complained about something, she used to say – the main thing is not to have a war. All the rest is remediable.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said on Wednesday, “We have no information on such possible incidents and on the credibility of these allegations,” adding that the Kremlin has not yet seen the report. He said that it is the responsibility of the Russian Defense Ministry to speak on the issue: “These are details linked to holding the operation, and only the defense ministry has full information.”
Later, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov issued a dismissal:
We familiarized ourselves with the report — again nothing concrete and nothing new has been published. The same cliches and fakes that we have repeatedly denounced before. The report uses the same phrases like “presumed Russian air strikes” and “possible violations of international law” and so on. That is, total assumptions without any kind of proof.