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Putin dismisses suggestions of war crime charges against Russia

[JURIST] Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] rejected suggestions that his country could face war crimes charges because of its role in the airstrikes in Aleppo, Syria. Putin was primarily responding to remarks from France President Francois Hollande [official website] that the airstrikes were tantamount to war crimes. Putin told France media [BBC report] that these accusations were "rhetoric" and failed to consider the practicalities of the conflict in Syria adding further that he is convinced western countries, and in particular the US, are responsible for Syria's situation. Putin further exclaimed that Russia will pursue terrorists wherever they are, even if they are hiding among civilians, stating: "We can't allow terrorists to use people as human shields and blackmail the entire world." Airstrikes in Aleppo, a rebel-held city, resumed after ceasefire talks failed, but the US and Russia agreed on Wednesday to resume talks to resolve the situation. According to the US Department of State [official website], the talks will be taking place on Saturday and would involve discussion of ceasing the violence and delivering humanitarian aid.

The conflict in Syria [JURIST backgrounder] has continued for five years in a civil war surrounding the legitimacy of Bashar al-Assad [official website]. For much of that time attacks have taken place on humanitarian convoys, medical facilities, and other forms of critical civilian aid. Earlier this week French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault [official profile] stated [JURIST report] that France intends to pursue avenues for the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to initiate an investigation into the alleged war crimes committed by Syrian and Russian forces in Aleppo. Last week US Secretary of State John Kerry [official website] made a similar call [JURIST report] for an investigation into the alleged war crimes of Russia and Syria in Aleppo. In September the EU called attacks in Aleppo a "breach of international humanitarian law" [JURIST report], denouncing the targeting of a humanitarian convoy hit by an airstrike the week prior. That same month the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria urged parties in the Syrian conflict to return to the "negotiation table" after a new report highlighted an increase of violence suffered by civilians [JURIST report]. The report noted that along with summary executions, forced displacement, and indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes the Syrian people lack sufficient access to life-saving medical services.

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