Russia slams Amnesty International report on Syrian raid deaths as 'fake'

Russian ground staff members load a long-range bomber with weapons at the Hmeymim air base near Latakia, Syria.
Russian ground staff members load a long-range bomber with weapons at the Hmeymim air base near Latakia, Syria. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW(AFP) - Russia on Wednesday rejected allegations by rights group Amnesty International that Moscow's strikes in Syria have caused massive civilian casualties, saying its report was made up of "cliches and fakes".

"We examined this report," defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a briefing. "Once again there was nothing concrete or new that was published, only cliches and fakes that we have already repeatedly exposed."

"Amnesty International is confidently arguing that there were no military targets or militants in the areas that were allegedly hit with Russian strikes, but they cannot know this and have no way of checking," said Konashenkov.

The London-based rights group on Wednesday issued a damning report which said that Russian raids have killed hundreds of civilians since start of the campaign on Sept 30, many in targeted strikes which could constitute war crimes.

It said there was evidence suggesting Russia uses internationally-banned cluster bombs in its strikes while Russian authorities may have covered up civilian damage to a mosque and a hospital.

Konashenkov said the report raised empty allegations "without any sort of proof" and relied on the wrong sources.

"Even in the preface of the report it says that all the listed facts have been researched long-distance, with information received from telephone questioning of local so-called rights activists," he said.

He said the report says Russian strikes targeted a hospital "while saying that witnesses did not see or hear a plane".

Russia has been flying near daily raids to bomb targets in Syria at the request of President Bashar al-Assad.

Moscow insists that it is bombing ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) extremists but Western countries, including the United States which leads a parallel coalition against the Islamic State group have accused Russia of targeting moderate opposition groups and propping Assad's regime.