Russia responded furiously to Boris Johnson's calls for protests outside the country's embassy in London over its bombing campaign in Syria. In his frontbench debut as Britain's foreign secretary, Johnson said Russia risks becoming a "pariah nation" due to its actions in Syria.
Eastern Aleppo was subjected to intense bombardment yesterday (11 October) after a lull in air raids by Moscow and Damascus last week. While an estimated 275,000 people still live there, it could face "total destruction" within two months, the UN has warned.
Johnson also called for International Criminal Court (ICC) action into allegations of Russian war crimes, such as raids on hospitals and aid workers. Neither Russia nor Syria are members of the ICC.
Within moments of Johnson's comments during an emergency House of Commons debate, the Russian embassy in London rounded on Britain on social media. "What have you achieved so far?" it tweeted to the Ministry of Defence. "Russia's record on Syria is thousands of freed villages, thousands of tons of humanitarian aid. What's Britain's?"
It noted that Johnson's calls for demonstrations were "very unusual" and asked: "New form of British diplomacy?"
Russian strikes in Syria have provoked fierce international criticism, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying attacks on hospitals are "way beyond" accidental and accused Moscow and Damascus of a "targeted strategy" to "terrorise civilians." He added that such assaults "beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes".
Russia demanded proof from the Foreign Office following the accusations and called the debate "depressing." Claiming that it is fighting jihadists while "sparing civilians", the Russian embassy's press secretary said: "Syria is going through the hard process of defeating terrorists. Pity that the British parliamentarians placed themselves on the wrong side of history this time."
Writing on Facebook, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova took a swipe at the foreign secretary. "It appears that Boris Johnson has moved from words to actions and has used the weapon with which he threatened Russia – shame," she posted. "We certainly are ashamed for him."