Russia rejects 'absurd' claims over civilian deaths in Syria

Moscow (AFP) –


Russia on Wednesday dismisses as "absurd" accusations by the United States that Russian air strikes in Syria are killing hundreds of civilians.

Russia has come under growing criticism from the West as well as human rights groups and Syrian rebels for inflicting civilian casualties in its two-month bombing campaign in the war-torn country.

The US State Department said Tuesday that the Russian strikes had killed hundreds of civilians" and hit "medical facilities, schools and markets".

"All of these anonymous and unsubstantiated statements about the alleged use of Russian aircraft on civilian targets in Syria is increasingly reminiscent of hypnotists' acts in travelling circuses," Russia's defence ministry said in a statement, calling the claims "absurd".

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday that Moscow's strikes had killed 2,371 people since they were launched September 30.

It said the toll includes 792 civilians, among them 180 children.

Russia's defence ministry said it deplored the "absolute silence" about the strikes by the United States, which is leading a coalition conducting its own bombing campaign against Islamic State jihadists.

It said the US raids had caused "mass casualties".

Amnesty International last week issued a damning report claiming that the Russian raids had killed hundreds of civilians, many in targeted strikes that could constitute war crimes.

Russia's defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov had dismissed the report, saying it was made up of "cliches and fakes".

In the past two days, Russia's air force conducted 121 combat sorties and struck 424 targets in many parts of Syria.