The Russian air force has not hit any civilian targets since they started conducting airstrikes in Syria, a senior Russian officer said Sunday. Russia has been conducting airstrikes in support of President Bashar Assad since Sept. 30.
“I want to say this with dignity. Not a single time did my pilots hit any 'no-go' sensitive targets such as schools, hospitals, mosques or holy sites,” Colonel General Viktor Bondarenko said in an interview with the Rossiya 24 news channel, Reuters reported.
The Russian general also went on to say that all the strikes were carefully planned in coordination with the Syrian Army. Pilots "have never missed their targets, have never hit ... so-called sensitive places: schools, hospitals, mosques," Bondarenko reportedly said.
Russia has launched about 5,200 sorties in Syria over the past three months. Allegations of damage to civilian life and property have closely followed. According to a December report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, 570 civilians have been killed in Russian airstrikes between Sept. 30 and Dec. 1.
This week, Amnesty International accused Russia of failing to acknowledge civilian deaths from its strikes in at least 25 incidents, based on independent witness accounts and footage and pictures published online. In response, Russia’s defense ministry has demanded to know the identities of the nonprofit's local sources as the group did not send its own investigation team to Syria.
The United Nations has reportedly said it has so far been unable to independently verify the allegations against Russia. New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Russia and Assad’s forces of indiscriminately using cluster bombs, banned by the U.N. in populated areas.
“Syria’s promises on indiscriminate weapons ring hollow when cluster munitions keep hitting civilians in many parts of the country,” HRW's Ole Solvang said in a report that documented at least 30 cases of the use of cluster munitions in areas with civilian population.
— Syrian Network (@snhr) December 19, 2015
Syria’s neighbor Turkey has also stepped up criticism of Russian airstrikes in Syria. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said this week that Russia’s military campaign in Syria had largely targeted civilian sites and Syria’s moderate opposition. Relations between Russia and Turkey have taken a hit since the latter shot down a Russia fighter jet near the Syrian border in November.
Meanwhile, the U.S., which has led an international coalition to attack the Islamic State group's strongholds in Syria and Iraq, conducted 17 airstrikes on Christmas Day, according to reports citing the Pentagon.