Human rights activists claim that civilian victims of the Russian bombing campaign in Syria number in the hundreds in densely populated areas. This Saturday, a senior U.S. official reported that only one-third of Russian aviation air strikes are being aimed at the positions of the so-called Islamic State. The indiscriminate bombing forces civilians to flee, further exacerbating the crisis in Europe caused by the massive influx of refugees.
Among the 5,000 air strikes inflicted by the Russian military aircraft since the bombings began on September 30th, around 70% hit military forces fighting against President Bashar al-Assad, targets that don't align well with the efforts of the U.S.-led coalition, said the official, answering a reporter's questions in Brussels.
Russia refuses to admit guilt over civilian casualties. The Kremlin began their air strikes, claiming that its main intention is to help Assad, its main ally in the Middle East, to fight the so-called Islamic State and other extremist groups.
“We are not sure of the true intentions of Russia,” the U.S. official said, speaking anonymously. “For a time very few strikes hit ISIL positions, but after the public started actively voicing its displeasure and condemning their actions they've made a certain amount of strikes against ISIL positions.”
The official also said that Russia is using a smaller amount of precision-guided munitions than the Untied Stated or its allies. “The inaccurate Russian air strikes cause me great concern, because, I think, indirectly it leads to the increase of the mass influx of refugees. And it's not just the pressure on NATO and the EU. It also has serious humanitarian consequences,” he said.
Last month Amnesty International said that Moscow's actions violated international law. According to them, starting from September 30th, when the Russian bombing began in Syria, until November 29th, at least 200 civilians were killed as a result of Russian air strikes. Russia continues to deny all accusations.
The Russian Defense Ministry keeps saying that its Air Force is trying not to bomb the residential areas so that no civilians are hurt. Since 2011, when the civil war in Syria started, 4.4 million people have left the country, seeking shelter in neighboring countries, many of whom are looking for a way to get into Europe.