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An answer to a question by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a joint news conference following talks with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Angelino Alfano, Moscow, March 27, 2017

Question: It has been reported that several hundred civilians have allegedly been killed by coalition airstrikes in a Mosul district. The United States has acknowledged that it delivered airstrikes at this district and promised to investigate the reported death of civilians. Do you think this investigation will be enough or that an independent investigation should be launched? What would the Foreign Ministry do if this investigation is deemed necessary?

Sergey Lavrov: We have been monitoring the operation to liberate Mosul since its inception, because we remembered how some of our Western colleagues criticised us during the operation in Eastern Aleppo. Mosul is a much larger metropolis than eastern Aleppo. When our worst fears came true and the number of civilian casualties started growing in Mosul, we drew the UN Security Council’s attention to this, several times over the past month, in fact.

The latest tragedy was reported on March 17, and it was not the last one because several other tragic incidents in which civilians died have happened since. But the tragedy of March 17 stands apart because the bombing raids lasted several hours and claimed over 200 civilian lives. I am surprised that it took US military personnel, who have sophisticated equipment, so many hours to see that the strikes were hitting the wrong targets.

Of course, we want Mosul to be liberated from the terrorists, but we also want the coalition to conduct its airstrike campaign carefully. We proposed a plan in eastern Aleppo that helped save very many lives. We organised a corridor so that the militants, including those from terrorist groups, could leave the city. Many of them used this opportunity, which allowed us to reduce the scale of armed force used to liberate eastern Aleppo. The only purpose of that action was to save lives. We hope that the coalition will take a similarly correct, careful and responsible approach to its operations in Mosul.

Today we have requested that a special briefing be held at the UN Security Council. I don’t think that council members will speak unanimously on the tragedy. But we will be able to ask questions and make our appeals. In general, we will continue to closely monitor the situation.

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