Photographer: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

U.K.’s Johnson Says Russia May Have Committed War Crimes

  • Russia denies charge, says U.K. committed war crimes in Iraq
  • Five world powers warn patience ending with Russia over Syria

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Russia may have committed war crimes in Syria, as the U.K. government joined four other world powers in warning that patience with Moscow is wearing thin.

“They are guilty of protracting this war and making it far more hideous, and yes, I think that when it comes to instances such as the bombing of civilian targets, we should be looking at whether or not that targeting is in the knowledge that those are wholly innocent civilian targets,” Johnson said in an interview on BBC Television’s “Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday. “That is a war crime.”

Violence is flaring again in Syria after a brief cease-fire collapsed. The plan struggled from the start and, despite a U.S. insistence that it could be recovered, suffered two grievous blows. First, a series of U.S.-led coalition strikes targeted a Syrian base, killing at least 60 soldiers in what the Americans said was an accident. Then, on Monday, an aid convoy was attacked, killing dozens more. Russia and Syria denied involvement, while the U.S. said those two countries were the only ones with planes in the air at the time.

“The burden is on Russia to prove it is willing and able to take extraordinary steps to salvage diplomatic efforts,” France, Italy, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. said in a statement. “Patience with Russia’s continued inability or unwillingness to adhere to its commitments is not unlimited,” the so-called Quint group said.

In Moscow, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry accused the U.K. of similar war crimes in Iraq.

Johnson said “that Russia is to blame for dragging out the civil war in Syria, and possibly, for war crimes in the form of air strikes on convoys with humanitarian aid,"  Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement. “That’s correct, aside for two words: instead of ‘Russia’ need to insert ‘U.K.,’ and instead of ‘Syria’--‘Iraq’"

Map of Syria and Turkish "safe zone"

In an interview with The Associated Press published on Thursday, President Bashar al-Assad blamed the U.S. for the collapse of the truce and accused it of deliberately targeting Syrian army soldiers.

Since street protests broke out in 2011 during the “Arab spring,” Syria’s cities and deserts have turned into a battlefield filled with Islamic State terrorists, Kurdish fighters, armed opposition groups of various stripes and military forces from Russia, Turkey, Iran, and the U.S.

In a contentious meeting of the United Nations Security Council last week, Secretary of State John Kerry wagged his finger at Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and said the Russians were living in a “parallel universe.” He said Russia and Syria should ground their aircraft, and repeated the demand Thursday.

The Quint group of nations called on the Security Council, where Russia has a veto, to take “urgent further steps to address the brutality of this conflict.”

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