UK Top Diplomat: Russia ‘May Have Committed War Crime’

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Sunday Russia might be responsible for a “war crime,” after a United Nations aid convoy was attacked in Syria Sept. 19.

The U.K.’s top diplomat had strong words for Russia on the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show,” saying that, “Putin’s regime is not just handing Assad the revolver; he is in some instances firing the revolver. The Russians themselves are actually engaged … If you say to me the west is too impotent, I would have to agree. I would have to agree that, since we took those decisions in 2013, when those red lines were crossed, we have not really had a viable military response, or any kinetic response to what is going on.”

A ceasefire that was supposed to last a week, came to an abrupt end less than a day in Sept. 18 when a U.N. aid convoy attempting to provide humanitarian relief for Aleppo was attacked, killing 20 people. Eighteen out of the 31 trucks traveling as a part of the convoy were destroyed.

Johnson told Marr that the Russia is, “guilty of making the war far more protracted and far more hideous, and yes, when it comes up, the bombing of civilian targets, we should be looking … to see if the targeting is done in the knowledge they are wholly innocent civilian targets, [because] that is a war crime … A war crime is defined as when you attack a civilian target in the knowledge that it is a civilian target.”

In response to Johnson’s assertion that Russia may have engaged in a war crime, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said, “The foreign minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson said in a broadcast of the BBC that Russia is guilty of protracting civil war in Syria and, possibly, of committing war crimes in the form of air attacks on convoys with humanitarian aid … All this is right except for two words: Instead of ‘Russia’ it needs to be ‘Great Britain’ and instead of ‘Syria,’ ‘Iraq.'”

Johnson’s comments come as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power accused Russia of “barbarism” Sunday for the country’s actions in Syria. Johnson’s strong words contrast greatly with the Sept. 20 revelation that the Obama administration lobbied Congress against passing a bill that would sanction Syrian President Bashar Assad as a war criminal. The justification behind the lobbying was that tabling the bill could help the now-failed ceasefire in Syria.

Russia has denied involvement in the attack, despite evidence that it targeted the convoy. As a result of the attack, Assad resumed his offensive on the historic Syrian city of Aleppo.

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