BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Top European Union official Donald Tusk denounced Russian air strikes in Syria as helping the “murderous” government of President Bashar al-Assad and triggering fresh waves of refugees fleeing toward Europe.
The war in Syria has made millions flee their homes and is one of the main drivers of Europe’s worst migration crisis in decades. The influx has divided EU members, who cannot agree on how to tackle it.
“Russia’s actions in Syria are making an already very bad situation even worse,” Tusk told in brief comments on greeting Georgia’s new prime minister, Georgy Kvirikashvili, arriving in Brussels.
“As a direct consequence of the Russian military campaign, the murderous Assad regime is gaining ground, the moderate Syrian opposition is loosing ground and thousands more refugees are fleeing toward Turkey and Europe,” Tusk said.
The Kremlin said on Tuesday there was no credible evidence of civilian deaths as a result of Russian air strikes in Syria.
Most of the over one million refugees and migrants who arrived in Europe last year did so via Greece after embarking from the Turkish coast.
Turkey, which already hosts more than 2.5 million of Syrian refugees, said tens of thousands more are now fleeing toward the Turkish border because of the assault on Aleppo by the Russian and Syria forces.
The United Nations called on Turkey on Tuesday to open its borders to thousands of desperate Syrian refugees fleeing Aleppo, in line with its international obligations to protect people fleeing conflict or persecution.
Peace talks between representatives of Assad and some opposition groups earlier this month failed mainly because of anger over Russia’s intensified bombings.
Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky