Moscow has rejected accusations by Turkey that Russia has been conducting ethnic cleansing operations in Syria against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on December 10 that the allegations are “groundless.”
Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on December 9 accused Russia of attempting to conduct “ethnic cleansing” in northern Syria.
Davutoglu said Moscow was trying to drive out the local Turkoman and Sunni Muslim populations from the Latakia region “who do not have good relations with the regime” in order to protect Russia’s military interests in the region.
Davutoglu also said Russian military strikes in Syria were “strengthening” Islamic State militants by targeting moderate opposition forces in Syria.
Relations between Moscow and Ankara have deteriorated sharply since Turkish forces shot down a Russian military plane that Anarka said had violated Turkish airspace.
The pilot of the Russian bomber was killed, sparking the Kremlin to impose economic sanctions against Turkey.