Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall to mark the Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow, Feb. 23, 2016. Getty Images/AFP/NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA

Russian defense ministry dismissed NATO allegations that Moscow, along with Syrian President Bashar Assad, is “deliberately weaponizing” the refugee crisis against the West, RT.com reported Thursday. Top NATO General Philip Breedlove told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday that Russian airstrikes against Syrian rebels and Islamic State group targets are leading to an increase in the number of asylum-seekers from the region.

Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov asserted that the United Nations has recorded a decline in refugee flow from the war-torn country and that peace talks have been initiated after Russia launched air campaign in Syria last September, according to RT.com. He also said that the U.S.-led coalition formed to fight against the militant group, also known as ISIS, has failed to start the reconciliation talks.

Countering Breedlove’s comments on Russia’s “indiscriminate” and “non-precision” bombing, Konashenkov said: “Sole reliance on ‘supersmart’ or ‘superprecision’ weapons leads American hawks to tragic mistakes with fatal consequences, as it was repeatedly observed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and since recently — in Syria.”

In his address to the U.S. Congress, Breedlove had said that the huge flow of refugees from Syria created a destabilizing effect on European countries where they sought asylum. He also suggested that the situation worked as a distraction for Western powers as they fight with the crisis and are forced to overlook the main cause.

“This criminality, the terrorists and this return of foreign fighters [to Europe] is clearly a daily part of the refugee flow now,” Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Together, Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration ... to break European resolve.”

Since the civil war in Syria began about five years ago, an estimated 470,000 Syrians have been killed, 7 million people internally displaced and around 4.5 million forced to leave the country.