Russia risks pariah status, UK minister says, urging protests

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson speaks at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Britain, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned Russia on Tuesday it risked becoming a pariah nation if it continued to bomb civilian sites in Syria and urged protesters to demonstrate outside the Russian embassy against its alleged war crimes.

Western nations on the United Nations Security Council are taking a tougher line against Russia amid growing anger over a Russian-backed Syrian government onslaught against rebel-held areas of the city of Aleppo.

“If Russia continues on its current path then I think that great country is in danger of becoming a pariah nation,” Johnson told parliament, calling on anti-war protest groups to demonstrate outside the Russian embassy.

“I’d certainly like to see demonstrations outside the Russian embassy,” he said, calling on anti-war groups such as the Stop the War coalition, which is backed by the leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

Russian jets resumed heavy bombing of rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Tuesday after several days of relative calm, a rebel official and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

President Bashar al-Assad seeks the complete recapture of Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city before the 5-1/2-year war, and which has been divided between government and opposition control for years.

Johnson also said the West should do more to put pressure on Russia, which has helped the Syrian government gain the upper hand against rebels on many frontlines in the conflict. He blamed Russia for an attack on an aid convoy in Syria last month.

“We’ve got to make sure we have innovative ways of getting aid into Aleppo, and as several members have said, we have to step up the pressure on Assad’s regime through sanctions and on the Russians through sanctions,” he said.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Helen Reid; editing by Elisabeth O’Leary and Dominic Evans