ANKARA: Turkey on Tuesday denounced Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria as “barbaric”, saying the assault had killed civilians including children and the elderly.
“Those vile, cruel and barbaric planes have made close to 8,000 sorties since September 30 without any discrimination between civilians and soldiers, or children and the elderly,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in parliament.
Tensions between Turkey and Russia have soared over Moscow’s backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s air campaign against what it claims are “terrorist” targets in the country.
Turkey has long backed Assad’s ouster and like other Western nations accuses Russia of predominantly bombing Syrian rebel groups backed by Washington and its allies instead of the Islamic State group.
Assad’s forces have most recently used Russian air support to move ever closer to the rebel stronghold of Aleppo in northern Syria, which alarmed Ankara that Syrian Kurdish militia could take control of the region near the Turkish border.
Ankara considers the PYD and its YPG militia to be branches of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
Turkish artillery has struck Syrian Kurdish targets since the weekend. Russia has described Turkey’s shelling of Kurdish and Syrian regime positions in the north of the country as a “provocative” action.
Davutoglu on Tuesday accused Kurdish fighters of being “Russia’s legion working as mercenaries” with a priority aim of harming Turkey’s interests.
“The YPG and PYD are not representatives of the Kurds, not of Syria, they are Russian legionaries and mercenaries,” he said.