Russia said Thursday it had nothing to do with air strikes on a school in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province that killed 22 children.
“The Russian Federation has nothing to do with this terrible tragedy, with this attack,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, adding that Moscow demanded an immediate investigation.
Zakharova said claims that Russian and Syrian warplanes had conducted the deadly air strikes in Idlib on Wednesday were “a lie.”
The raids hit a school and the surrounding area, killing 22 children and six teachers, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said “warplanes — either Russian or Syrian — carried out six strikes” in the village of Hass, including on a school complex.
Asked about the attack, Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said earlier: “It’s horrible, horrible. I hope we were not involved.”
“It’s easy for me to say ‘no’ but I’m a responsible person. I need to see what our defence ministry is going to say,” he told reporters at the United Nations.
Zakharova said Russia’s defence ministry would soon be making a statement on the incident.
The West has accused Moscow of bombing the war-torn country’s civilian infrastructure to bolster long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad.
Western powers and rights groups have also accused Russia of perpetrating potential war crimes in air strikes in rebel-held eastern Aleppo in support of a brutal Syrian government offensive to retake total control over the city.
Russia’s defence ministry said Thursday that Syrian and Russian warplanes had not bombed Aleppo in the past nine days.
A ceasefire meant to allow civilians and armed combatants to leave rebel-held eastern Aleppo ended at the weekend, with Moscow on Monday ruling out an extension of the truce for the time being.