The Russian Defense Ministry says that a US coalition drone was in the vicinity of a humanitarian convoy when it was attacked outside Aleppo. According to the Russian military, the unmanned aircraft was a Predator drone.
“On the evening of September 19, in that specific region, a drone belonging to the international condition, which had taken off from the Incirlik air base in Turkey, was flying at a height of 3,600 meters and traveling at around 200 kilometers per hour,” said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
“The object was in the area around the town of Urm Al-Kubra, where the convoy was a few minutes before it caught fire,” Konashenkov added. “It left after about 30 minutes.”
The Defense Ministry spokesman said he wanted to point out that, as was the case with the tragedy on September 17 which saw US-led coalition airstrike kill and injure 200 people, the Russians would not be making any unfounded allegations.
“Only the owners know what exactly the drone was doing at this particular area at that exact time,” he added.
Moscow says it has provided all the data it possesses regarding the attack on the convoy, which was carrying aid to rebel-held areas in Aleppo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday.
“There was another unacceptable provocation on September 19 – the shelling of a humanitarian convoy near Aleppo,” he said. “I am confident that such coincidences require serious analysis and an investigation.”
On September 19, a humanitarian convoy consisting of 31 trucks was attacked while heading to Aleppo. According to the Red Cross, 20 civilians and one aid worker died as a result. Initial reports claimed the convoy had been targeted by an airstrike. Later the UN said all it could confirm was that the convoy was attacked.
On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry reiterated that neither it nor the Syrian military had launched airstrikes on the convoy.
“Russian and Syrian warplanes did not carry out any airstrikes on a UN humanitarian aid convoy in the southwest of Aleppo,” Konashenkov said in a statement. He added that the military had studied video footage of the convoy, which appeared to rule out that an airstrike took place.
“We have closely studied the video footage from where the incident took place and we did not find any signs of any ammunition having hit the convoy. There are no craters, while the vehicles have their chassis intact and they have not been severely damaged, which would have been the case from an airstrike,” Konashenkov said.
“All of the video footage demonstrates that the convoy caught fire, which strangely happened almost at exactly at the same time as militants started a large-scale offensive on Aleppo.”
In a statement Konashenkov said Moscow was compelled to disclose the “sensitive details” in response to the accusations made by US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, who has laid the blame for the attack on the aid convoy on Russia.
“This type of drone can not only monitor the situation, but also guide ground weapons to their targets and inflict surgical airstrikes at objects located on the ground by itself,” the Russian spokesman explained.
“Our western colleages are putting their best efforts to hype up the situation and ‘blur’ the tragedy in Deir ez-Zor and to distract the international community from Al-Nusra’s advance on Aleppo and thus cover the US incompetence in distinguishing between the ‘moderate’ opposition and terrorists in Syria.”
The US-led coalition air forces did not carry out any missions over the Aleppo area where the UN aid convoy was hit, Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, told RIA Novosti.