At least 200 civilians and around a dozen fighters in Syria have been killed by Russian air strikes, Amnesty International has said. The human rights watchdog has also accused Russia of using "banned cluster munitions and unguided bombs" in populated residential areas, which cause huge damage to infrastructure.
Amnesty International says it "researched remotely" more than 25 Russian attacks in five areas between 30 September and 29 November with the help of witnesses, activists, video clips and other images to come to its findings. Amnesty said it researched Russian bombings in Homs, Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo and that Moscow may have committed war crimes.
"Some Russian air strikes appear to have directly attacked civilians or civilian objects by striking residential areas with no evident military target and even medical facilities, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians. Such attacks may amount to war crimes," said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) programme at Amnesty International.
Russia has denied killing civilians and has maintained that it has only attacked "terrorist" targets in Syria. The report, however, says that the Russian bombs struck areas where there were no military targets or fighters in the immediate vicinity. It added that Russia may have lied to cover up for damages caused to a mosque and hospital from its bombings.
"By presenting satellite imagery of an intact mosque and claiming it showed another that had been destroyed, the Russian authorities appear to have used sleight of hand to try to avoid reproach and avert scrutiny of their actions in Syria. Such conduct does not cultivate confidence in their willingness to investigate reported violations in good faith," Luther said.
"Russia's Ministry of Defence must be more transparent and disclose targets of their attacks in order to facilitate assessment of whether they are complying with their obligations under international humanitarian law," Philip Luther added.
The report says one of the deadliest attacks occurred in centre of Ariha in Idlib when three missiles struck a busy market place killing 49 civilians. "In just a few moments, people were screaming, the smell of burning was in the air and there was just chaos. There was a primary school nearby, and children were running out absolutely terrified... there were bodies everywhere, decapitated and mutilated," Mohammed Qurabi al-Ghazal, a local media activist, said.