The European Union strongly condemned Russia on Monday for causing “untold suffering” with its bombing of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
The air strikes by Moscow and the Syrian regime it backs, said the EU, could constitute war crimes.
In a statement after talks held in Luxembourg, European Union foreign ministers said: “Since the beginning of the offensive by the regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate. The deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and essential infrastructure, as well as the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons, constitute a catastrophic escalation of the conflict … and may amount to war crimes.”
The specific reference to Russia and war crimes in the same statement is significant in that a case may be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague with this accusation.
Prior statements have referred to “allies” of the Assad regime. Although Britain and the United States also pressured for sanctions against Russia, this did not succeed, according to international media reports. Extensive EU sanctions are already imposed against Syria, including those involving embargoes on oil and arms, plus bans on more than 200 individuals and 70 entities and institutions.
Moscow announced an eight-hour cease fire set for Thursday as the EU statement was being released to reporters. The truce is to coincide with the opening of a summit for European Union leaders in Brussels at which relations with Russia tops the agenda.