A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman says a report by human rights watchdog Amnesty International accusing Russia of possible war crimes in Syria, is biased and contains ungrounded claims. Rough Cut-subtitled (No Reporter Narration).
ROUGH CUT - SUBTITLED (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: A report by human rights watchdog Amnesty International that said Russia's bombing of Syria may amount to a war crime because of the number of civilians the strikes have killed is biased and contains ungrounded claims, Russia's Defence Ministry said on Wednesday (December 23). "We've studied this report. Nothing concrete and nothing new was published. The same cliches and lies which we have revealed more than once before. The report all the time uses such expressions as 'presumably Russian strikes', 'possible violations of international law', etc. i.e. nothing but assumptions without any proof", ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a news briefing. He also rejected accusations by human rights bodies that Russia was using cluster bombs in Syria. "As for the assumptions on cluster bombs - Russian air force does not use them. I can see in this room dozens of foreign journalists who have been to Hmeymim air base in person and had filmed almost around the clock the preparations by Russian jets for sorties, take offs and landings. But no one has showed even once and has not asked a single question on this type of ammunition. Because there is no such ammunition at our air base in Syria." The Amnesty International report published on Wednesday presented what it said was evidence that Moscow's actions had violated humanitarian law. The Kremlin began its campaign of air strikes against militants in Syria on September 30, saying it wanted to help the Kremlin's main Middle East ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, defeat Islamic State and other militant groups. It has repeatedly and forcefully denied targeting civilians, saying it takes great care to avoid bombing residential areas. But the Amnesty report, whose charges echoed those of some Syrian and Western observers, said Russian air strikes had killed "at least 200 civilians and around a dozen fighters" up to November 29. Konashenkov told the news briefing in Moscow that the Amnesty report was biased. "The conflict in Syria has been going on for almost five years. Around 300,000 people are estimated to have become its victims. It's strange that Amnesty International avoids a question about who committed war crimes in Syria before the appearance of a Russian air force group there," he said. Amnesty has in fact been issuing reports on abuses by various parties in the Syrian civil war since it broke out in 2011. It said the latest one, which focused on six attacks in Homs, Idlib and Aleppo, was based on interviews with witnesses and survivors, as well as on video evidence and images showing the aftermath of attacks.