Russia has accused the US-led coalition in Syria of wiping the city of Raqqa “off the face of the Earth” with carpet-bombing, in the same way America and Britain bombed Germany’s Dresden during World War Two.
The Russian Defence Ministry, which has repeatedly been forced to deny accusations from activists and western politicians of indiscriminately bombing Syrian civilians, said it looked like the West was now rushing to provide financial aid to Raqqa to cover up evidence of its own crimes.
Major-General Igor Konashenkov, chief spokesman for the Defence Ministry, said around 200,000 people had lived in Raqqa before the conflict in Syria but no more than 45,000 people remained.
“Raqqa has inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, wiped off the face of the Earth by Anglo-American bombardments,” he said.
Most of the German city was destroyed in Allied bombing raids just before the end of the Second World War.
US-backed militias in Syria declared victory over Isis in Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital, last week, raising flags over the last jihadist footholds after a four-month battle.
Though he said Russia welcomed western promises of financial aid to rebuild Raqqa, Major-General Konashenkov complained that numerous Russian requests for the West to give humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians in other parts of the country had been rejected in previous years.
“What is behind the rush by western capitals to provide targeted financial help only to Raqqa?” he asked.
“There’s only one explanation – the desire to cover up evidence of the barbaric bombardments by the US air force and the coalition as fast as possible and to bury the thousands of civilians ‘liberated’ from Islamic State in the ruins.”
The US-led coalition says it is careful to avoid civilian casualties in its bombing runs against Isis in both Syria and Iraq, and investigates any allegations.
The coalition has previously denied killing civilians in air strikes on Raqqa, saying its goal is “zero civilian casualties”.