'Russia highly likely to be responsible for Aleppo war crimes'

Residents gather near green government buses for evacuation from eastern Aleppo, Syria Credit: PA

Russia is highly likely to have committed war crimes in Aleppo, four Syrian organisations have said.

Referring in particular to 304 attacks which resulted in 1,207 civilian deaths, including 380 children, the groups added that Russia had violated international humanitarian law.

In a letter to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the groups wrote: "Evidence clearly indicates that Russia has committed or been complicit in war crimes in Syria."

The letter is signed by the White Helmets, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, Independent Doctors Association and Violations Documentation Centre.

The groups told the commission they would be "honoured" to provide "evidence, testimonials, and any other relevant information to assist your investigations and help the identification of suspected perpetrators".

An injured child is taken to hospital in Aleppo Credit: PA

The 304 incidents they cited include:

  • 101 in which children were killed

  • 42 using banned cluster munitions

  • 20 using incendiary weapons in populated areas

  • 51 on hospitals and medical centres

  • 18 on schools

  • 21 on mosques

The Syrian groups also urged the Geneva-based commission "to explore fully all credible accounts of Iran's complicity in war crimes in Aleppo".

They noted that Iranian-backed militias "have played a central role enforcing Syria's sieges and overseeing local forced surrender negotiations". Iranian security and intelligence services have reportedly advised and assisted the Syrian military, they said.

"It is estimated that Iran oversees some 70,000 paramilitary troops in Syria, many of whom have been involved in atrocities against civilians," the groups said.

"Yet nowhere has Iranian intervention been more egregious than in eastern Aleppo, where Iran deliberately obstructed a December 13 2016 ceasefire, which would have permitted thousands of innocent civilians to be safely evacuated from the besieged city," they said.