An investigation by the New York Times has revealed that the Russian Air Force has repeatedly bombed hospitals in Syria to crush anti-Assad resistance.
By analysing Russian Air Force radio recordings, plane spotter logs, records from charities that supported the hospitals, social media posts, and witness accounts, the New York Times has traced the bombings of four hospitals over a 12-hour period beginning 5 May, back to Russian pilots.
One centre was Nabad Al-Hayat Surgical Hospital, a trauma centre in southern Idlib, which performed roughly 500 operations a month. It had already been attacked three times and had relocated underground to shield itself.
Three miles northwest of Nabad Al-Hayat, Kafr Nabl Surgical Hospital was struck four times starting from 5.30pm. Russian pilots also bombed Kafr Zita Cave Hospital and Al-Amal Orthopedic Hospital.
The New York Times reports that plane spotter logs recorded Russia Air Force jets in the sky above each hospital at the time of the strikes and the pilots can be heard in radio transmissions “working” their targets at the same time the strikes were reported.
The attacks on these four hospitals are part of a wider pattern of attacks on medical centres and hospitals which aim to help Syrian President Bashar Assad secure victory.
Since 2011 there have been at least 583 attacks on medical workers, 266 of these since Russia joined the war on September 2015, according to the US-based NGO Physicians for Human Rights.
The regime has also stopped medical aid from entering certain areas on UN convoys, forcing the price of medicine to skyrocket.
In September UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was setting up an internal investigation into the bombing of Syria hospitals.
Russia has repeatedly used its veto power at the security council to protect its Syrian ally and protect action against it.
As the New York Times points out, intentionally bombing hospitals is a war crime but in the middle of a war, culpability can be hard to prove.
The Russian Defence Ministry has said “the alleged ‘evidence’ provided by the NYT is not worth even the paper it was printed on.”
Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the newspaper had become a “victim of manipulation by terrorists and British security services.”