February 21, 2018 / 5:33 PM / 4 months ago

Kremlin rejects allegations Russia behind civilian deaths in Syria's Ghouta

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Western allegations the Russian Air Force was responsible for civilian deaths in the rebel-held district of eastern Ghouta outside the Syrian capital Damascus were groundless.

Smoke rises from the rebel held besieged town of Hamouriyeh, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Pro-government forces pounded eastern Ghouta on Tuesday, in a surge of violence that a war monitor said had killed at least 250 people since Sunday night.

Russia has been providing air support for the Syrian army since Moscow intervened to help President Bashar al-Assad side in 2015.

“These are groundless accusations, we don’t know what they are based on, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, when asked about Western assertions that Russia was to blame for some of the deaths in eastern Ghouta.

“They (the allegations) are not backed up with any specific information. We do not agree with them,” Peskov told a conference call with reporters.

The British-based war monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said many of the planes over Ghouta appeared to be Russian. Syrians say they can distinguish between Russian and Syrian planes because the Russian aircraft fly higher.

“In (eastern) Ghouta, we have observed Russian aircraft participating,” said Mohammad Alloush, the political chief of Jaish al-Islam, one of the main rebel factions in the enclave.

“Based on our intelligence methods, it shows Russian aircraft participating in the bombardment of civilians in Ghouta, in the campaign that started four days ago,” he said on Wednesday.

Reporting by Polina Ivanova and Ellen Francis; Writing by Andrew Osborn and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Polina Ivanova

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