Russia risks becoming pariah over Syria bombing, UK foreign secretary says — “War Crimes” — Russia accuses him of ‘Russophobic hysteria’

BBC News

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson asks: “Where is the Stop The War coalition at the moment? Where are they?”

Russia is risking becoming an international “pariah” following its bomb attacks in Syria, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said.

He told MPs he would “like to pursue” those responsible for attacks on hospitals and a humanitarian convoy as war criminals.

Earlier, former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell likened attacks on the city of Aleppo to the raid on Guernica, Spain, by the Nazis in the 1930s.

Russia says it is targeting terrorists.

The northern Syrian city of Aleppo has become a key battleground in the country’s bloody five-year civil, with a UN relief convoy being attacked from the air last month – an action widely blamed on Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government – which supports the government of Bashir al-Assad – has denied carrying out the action.

The UK government has strongly criticised Russia’s bombing of Syria, while French President Francois Hollande has suggested Russia could face war crimes charges over its actions in Aleppo.

Aftermath of attack on aid convoy in Urum al-Kubra, Syria (20 September 2016)

Andrew Mitchell accused Russia of committing a war crime by attacking a UN relief convoy last month. Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin

French President Francois Hollande said he might refuse to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) over Russia’s bombing of Aleppo. Getty Images

Mr Putin has cancelled a visit to France after Mr Hollande he would only talk to the Russian leader about Syria.

Ending a three-hour debate on the situation in Syria, Mr Johnson, in his first Commons speech since becoming foreign secretary, condemned “deliberate attacks on humanitarian convoys”.

He told MPs he would “like to see” demonstrations against Russia’s actions take place outside the country’s London embassy.

Mr Johnson added: “I’m personally very attracted to the idea of getting these people to come before the International Criminal Court. That’s certainly something I would like to pursue.”

He said: “If Russia continues on its current path then I believe that that great country is in danger of becoming a pariah nation.”

But Mr Johnson played down suggestions that a no-fly zone could be imposed to prevent further Russian bombings, adding this would be impossible to enforce “unless we are prepared to shoot down warplanes”.

The Russian Embassy in the UK hit back at Mr Johnson on Twitter, saying: “Very unusual call from the foreign secretary to hold demonstrations in front of the Russian embassy.

“New form of British diplomacy?”

It called on the Foreign Office to produce proof of its claims about Russia’s actions in Syria.

Earlier, Mr Mitchell, a former international development secretary, opened the debate by accusing Russia of helping a “barbaric bombardment” of Aleppo.

He also said it should be treated as a “pariah”, saying: “The Kremlin, like any bully, is winning credibility if no-one stands up to them.”

Mr Mitchell also said: “What Russia are doing to the United Nations is precisely what Italy and Germany did to the League of Nations in the 1930s. And they are doing to Aleppo precisely what the Nazis did to Guernica in the Spanish Civil War.”

Mural based on Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Picasso’s painting Guernica has been replicated many times, including here in Guernica itself. Getty Images

In 1937, the Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco allowed the ancient Basque capital of Guernica – which had held out against the advances made by his army since the beginning of the civil war the previous year – to be bombed by Germany’s air force. This is regarded as the first deliberate aerial bombing of a city in history.

More than 1,600 people died, but Franco denied the raid had taken place. The events provoked international outrage and inspired the anti-war painting Guernica by Pablo Picasso.

Andrew Mitchell

The “barbarism and tyranny” in Syria must be brought to an end, Mr Mitchell told MPs

For Labour, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said there had to be “strong statesmanship” and “not more brinkmanship” in dealing with the crisis in Syria.

She told MPs: “There are a number of war crimes that have been committed during this terrible war. There are the war crimes of Assad and Russia and there are the war crimes of the Jihadists.” Ms Thornberry said she expected those responsible to be tried by the International Criminal Court.

Last month Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK would “never intentionally strike or focus on Syrian forces”, after Britain confirmed it had taken part in air strikes that killed dozens of Syrian troops.

At least 62 Syrians were killed in the strikes, as the US said it might have accidentally hit a government position.

Last week Russia vetoed a Franco-Spanish UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the bombing.

In a strongly worded statement issued on Monday, the Russian government rejected the UK’s criticism of its actions in Aleppo and questioned the UK’s own contribution to military and humanitarian efforts.



Boris Johnson’s calls for protests outside the Russian embassy risk retaliation in Moscow, a former spy chief has warned.

Sir John Sawers said the consequences for the security of Britain’s embassy in Russia should be considered when urging demonstrations and highlighted the attack on the UK’s base in Iran by protesters in 2011.

The ex-MI6 chief said it had been a mistake not to take military action at the start of the Syrian civil war and Britain had “vacated the theatre”.

During an emergency Commons debate on Syria, the Foreign Secretary called for demonstrations outside the Russian embassy in protest at the bombing of Aleppo.

Boris Johnson

Sir John told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We all have to be a little bit careful and mindful of the security of our embassy in Moscow when we think about calling for demonstrations here in London.

“We all recall what happened to our embassy in Tehran three or four years ago. I don’t think that would happen in Moscow but we need to be careful about the consequences of things that we call for.”

It comes as peace campaigners claimed protesting outside the Russian embassy over Syria would increase the “hysteria and jingoism” that is being “whipped up” against the federation.

The Stop the War Coalition claimed the Government was fuelling anti-Russian sentiment in an attempt to “justify” an escalation of British military intervention.

A man walks on the rubble of damaged buildings after an airstrike on the rebel held al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo CREDIT: ABDALRHMAN ISMAIL/REUTERS

But Stop the War vice chairman Chris Nineham said the organisation would not get involved.

“The reason for that is our focus is on what our Government is doing,” he told Today.

“There’s a very good reason for this, because we can make a difference to what Britain does, we can make a difference to what our allies do to a certain extent and we have done.

“But, if we have a protest outside the Russian embassy it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference as to what (President Vladimir) Putin does because we are in Britain and we are in the West.

“And, not only that – a protest outside the Russian embassy would actually contribute to increasing the hysteria and the jingoism that is being whipped up at the moment against Russia.”

At least 20 people were killed in the September 20 attack on a UN aid convoy.  CREDIT:OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP

He added: “What we are saying is there is a hysteria which is being organised by politicians and the media against Russia to see Russia as the only problem in Syria.”

Mr Nineham said the Foreign Secretary’s calls for demonstrations were “characteristically trivialising”.

Russia have branded Mr Johnson accusations over an attack on an aid convoy in Syria as “Russophobic hysteria”.

“There were no Russian planes in the area of the aid convoy to Aleppo. That is a fact,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

Mr Johnson had warned the country was in danger of becoming a “pariah nation”.

Members of Civil Defense inspecting damaged buildings after airstrikes hit the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood of Aleppo CREDIT: SYRIAN CIVIL DEFENSE WHITE HELMETS VIA AP

The comments came as Vladimir Putin cancelled a planned visit to Paris and residents of Aleppo reported a surge in the Russian and Syrian government bombing that has sparked the most dangerous confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.  

Moscow rejected Mr Johnson’s calls for demonstrations as an inappropriate intervention.

“Clearly, Boris Johnson has moved from words to actions and used the weapon with which he threatened Russia – shame. We certainly are ashamed for him,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, on Tuesday.

Sir John said the worsening crisis was a direct consequence of Britain’s decision “not to engage ourselves”.

“We vacated the theatre and the Russians have moved in,” he said. “It certainly was a mistake. Chemical weapons were being used against civilians in Damascus by their own regime.”

Sir John said the balance of power globally had changed and Russia and China were now much more powerful than they were in the past.

“In some ways we are moving into an era which is as dangerous, if not more so, than it was in the Cold War because we don’t have that level of focus on the strategic relationship between Washington and Moscow,” he added.


Accusations by the UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson of a Russian attack on an aid convoy in Syria are “Russophobic hysteria”, the Russian defence ministry has said.

“There were no Russian planes in the area of the aid convoy to Aleppo. That is a fact,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

Johnson said on Tuesday there was evidence showing Russia was responsible for the attack.

Making his frontbench debut as foreign secretary in a Commons debate, Johnson said Russia should be investigated for war crimes in Aleppo and took the unusual step of calling for demonstrations by anti-war protesters outside the Russian embassy in London.

Johnson said “the mills of justice grind slowly, but they grind small” as he predicted those responsible for war crimes in Syria would eventually face charges before the international criminal court.

Johnson’s remarks underline the degree to which relations between Russia and the west have deteriorated to levels not seen since the end of the cold war.

Johnson appeared to reject calls for a no-fly zone over areas of Syria, saying: “We cannot commit to a no-fly zone unless we are prepared to confront and perhaps shoot down planes or helicopters that violate that zone. We need to think very carefully about the consequences.”

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One Response to “Russia risks becoming pariah over Syria bombing, UK foreign secretary says — “War Crimes” — Russia accuses him of ‘Russophobic hysteria’”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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