Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has criticized the US-led coalition’s Mosul airstrikes, saying the operation is claiming “more and more civilian lives.”
Moscow has requested a UN Security Council briefing over a recent airstrike at a site where an estimated 200 people died.
“The most recent tragedy happened on March 17, to be precise it is not the latest one as there were numerous incidents that claimed civilian lives after it.
However, the March 17 [tragedy], when the bombings lasted for several hours and an estimated 200 civilians were killed, stands out because of its scale,” the Russian foreign minister said at a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart, Angelino Alfano.
“If one cannot establish for hours that the airstrikes are hitting the wrong targets, then such actions of the US military startle me, as they possess the necessary [targeting] equipment,” Lavrov said.
Russia’s top diplomat added that Moscow “is interested in liberating Mosul from terrorists” but stressed that the actions of the US-led coalition should be more “cautious and responsible.”
He went on to cite Russia’s initiative for the liberation of eastern Aleppo in Syria as an example of a more responsible approach.
“A corridor was organized for all the militants, including the members of the terrorist groups [to leave eastern Aleppo].
Many [militants] seized this opportunity, thus reducing the need for the use of military force for the liberation of that part of the city,” Lavrov said, stressing that “we did it with the sole purpose of saving lives.”
“We expect that a similar regardful, cautious and responsible approach would be used by the coalition in its further actions in Mosul,” he added.
Lavrov said that some Western countries had paid excessive attention to the operation in Aleppo and had “pressured” Russia over the humanitarian situation there, but are now showing an almost complete disregard for the plight of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.
The minister also said that Russia is closely monitoring the ongoing Mosul liberation campaign and has already repeatedly drawn the attention of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to the problem of civilian casualties over the past month.
Earlier, the UN expressed “profound concern” over the reports of civilian casualties in Mosul and called on all parties in the anti-terrorist operation to refrain from “indiscriminate use of firepower.”
US Central Command said in a statement issued March 25 that “at the request of the Iraqi Security Forces, the Coalition struck ISIS [Islamic State/IS] fighters and equipment, March 17, in West Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties.”
Mosul residents have been complaining that the US-led coalition is not as precise and careful in its airstrikes as it claims.
One resident told RT’s sister video agency, Ruptly, that coalition airplanes “were bombing randomly” instead of hitting specific targets.
A senior Human Rights Watch official also confirmed to RT that civilians in Mosul are subjected to indiscriminate shelling by Iraqi troops, who systematically use heavy artillery and crude improvised rocket-assisted munitions (IRAM) in the battle against IS terrorists in the city.
Some 400,000 civilians are still trapped in the Old City part of Mosul held by IS militants, facing food and electricity shortages, a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Iraq earlier told Reuters, adding that between 8,000 and 12,000 people are fleeing the city daily.