Russian MoD invites UK to prove ‘russophobic’ accusation that Moscow hit aid convoy in Aleppo
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s accusations that Russia bombed a UN aid convoy outside Aleppo, Syria are baseless, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said, inviting London to present credible evidence.
According to Russian Maj. Gen. Konashenkov, “the russophobic hysteria of certain members of the British establishment is no longer impressive.”
“As of September 20, we witness the third wave of accusations that allege Russia’s involvement in the destruction of a humanitarian convoy near Aleppo,” the Defense Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.
“Every time we hear of testimonies of some ‘eyewitnesses and volunteers’ – who then turn out to be Al Nusra militants – or of some ‘credible evidence’ possessed by US intelligence, [it is] later refuted by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford in the Congress,” he added.
On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed that the aid convoy was hit by the Russian Air Force, citing open-source-based satellite images.
“All the available evidence therefore points to Russian responsibility for the atrocity,” he said at the House of Commons during a debate on Syria.
“There were no Russian aircraft in the area near the humanitarian convoy,” Konashenkov stated, adding that Russia has reliable air traffic control data on all flights over Aleppo starting from September 19.
The UN-Red Crescent aid convoy of 31 trucks was destroyed while carrying humanitarian supplies near the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo. Western powers were quick to blame the attack on Russia. Moscow stated that there were no combat sorties – flown by either Russian or Syrian warplanes – in the area on that day.
The Red Cross said that at least 20 civilians and one aid worker had been killed as a result. The organization itself chose to refrain from making premature conclusions and urged finding out the facts first.
“We have very diverse information and it is quite difficult to get a full picture of the situation,” Benoit Matsha-Carpentier, head of communications at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told RT last month.
The UN has also backed off its initial claims that the convoy was hit by military aircraft. “We are not in a position to determine whether these were in fact airstrikes. We are in a position to say that the convoy was attacked,” UN humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said.
Shortly after the incident took place, the Russian Defense Ministry cited its own investigation based on in-depth analysis of drone footage that detected an unidentified large-caliber mortar carried by a militants’ pickup truck in close proximity to the convoy.
“The video clearly shows how the terrorists are relocating a pickup truck with a large-caliber mortar,” the Defense Ministry spokesman said. It shows the vehicle in question riding alongside a line of aid trucks and stopping next to one of them so that it can be seen from one side only.
The spokesman added that there were no craters, typical of the damage inflicted by bombs, and the trucks’ chassis were intact.
The US asserted, however, that Russia and Syria are responsible for the attack, demanding that both countries’ air forces flying in the area be grounded immediately.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to the American allegations, saying: “When the humanitarian convoy was hit [outside Aleppo], we demanded that an investigation be conducted. [US Secretary of State] John Kerry, a good partner of mine, behaved in a way he never has done previously.”
The Foreign Minister also hinted that the Obama administration does not exercise full control over the US military “which may not be obeying their supreme commander too much.”
NATO leadership has been more cautious when commenting on the aid convoy attack. Speaking to RT the day after the incident, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “I will not speculate about that. It’s important to get the facts and to find out how this could [have] happened, but I won’t speculate.”
Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in embattled Aleppo continues to deteriorate. Aid organizations warn that civilians in the Islamist-held eastern part of the city are in desperate need of healthcare, food and sanitation. In government-controlled western Aleppo, people are vulnerable to the militants’ shelling and sniper fire.