December 27, 2015 / 9:33 AM / 3 years ago

Russia says air force has not hit civilian targets in Syria

A man walks near a damaged truck at a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes carried out by the Russian air force in Karf Naseh town, Aleppo countryside, Syria December 26, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian air forces have not hit civilian targets since they started a bombing campaign in Syria nearly three months ago, a senior Russian officer said in an interview with Rossiya 24 television.

London-based rights group Amnesty International said this week that Russia’s bombing of Syria had killed many civilians and could amount to a war crime. Russia’s Defense Ministry strongly rejected the allegations.

“The Military Space Forces have never hit civilian targets in Syria,” said Viktor Bondarev, Colonel General and commander-in-chief of Russia’s Aerospace Forces. Pilots are well-trained and “have never missed their targets, have never hit ... so-called sensitive places: schools, hospitals, mosques,” he said.

The Kremlin began its campaign of air strikes in Syria on Sept. 30, saying it wanted to help Moscow’s main Middle East ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, defeat Islamic State and other militant groups.

Bondarev also said that the supply of Russian surface-to-air S-400 system to Syria had helped to “set the (Syrian) air space in order.”

A new message purporting to come from the leader of Islamic State said on Saturday air strikes by Russia and a U.S.-led coalition had failed to weaken the group.

The United Nations currently aims to bring together Syria’s warring parties on Jan. 25 in Geneva to begin talks to try to end nearly five years of civil war.

Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Dominic Evans

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