Belgium seeks explanations from Russian envoy over Syria airstrike statement

22:30, 19 October 2016
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The Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput is to ask the Russian Ambassador to Belgium Aleksandr Tokovinin for an explanation following accusations by Russian claiming the Belgian Airforce killed civilians during bombings of targets in Syria, deredactie.be reports.

REUTERS

Speaking on Wednesday morning, Mr Vandeput told VRT News that "It could be that we send a letter or that we ask the Russian Ambassador here in Brussels what the reasoning was behind spreading this kind of information", according to deredactie.be.

The local authorities in Syria claim that Hassadjek, a village in the north of Aleppo Province, was bombed on Tuesday.

Six civilians are reported dead and a further four people are reported to have been injured. The Russian Ministry of Justice claims that at the time of the bombing two Belgian F-16 were detected in the area.

Read alsoU.S. broadens Syria talks after failure of truce deal with Russia – ReutersThe Russians stress that since Tuesday they and the Syrian Army have not carried out any attacks on targets in the area. The Russian and Syrians have temporarily stopped hostilities around Aleppo to give civilians the chance to leave the area and to allow the doctors the chance to treat the wounded.

The Belgian Defense Ministry has formally denied that Belgian Airforce F-16 were in the area, adding that the planes have been inactive for the past three days.

"The accusations don’t stand up. We don’t normally talk about where we have been on active service. However, I can, with my hand on my heart, confirm that on that day we didn’t fly over the region in question," Mr Vandeput told VRT News.

Read alsoFrance to call for war crimes probe against Russia over SyriaBelgium is currently part of the international coalition against the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) terror group. The United States military is at the head of mission. The Belgian Airforce carries out bombardments of IS targets in Iraq and Syria as part of the international coalition's mission.

"IS is the only group that we target. We don’t want to claim any civilian victims or for there to be any doubt about who we are targeting," Mr Vandeput said.

Read alsoEuropean powers seek EU condemnation of Russia over SyriaAccording to Mr Vandeput, the Russians are trying to sow discord among the coalition members by spreading false information.

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