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Russia’s Bizarre, Barely Coherent Defence It Didn’t Bomb Hospitals in Syria

February 17, 2016

By Eliot Higgins

Following this weeks earlier attacks on medical facilities in Syria run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) the Russian Defence Ministry has published a statement explaining why it’s not responsible for the attacks. Much of the statement is a mess of barely coherent claims, and reads closer to a conspiracy theory than a statement from a serious organisation. The Russian Defence Ministry attacks MSF, questioning whether or not the facilities actually had anything to do with MSF in the first place;

First of all, it is to be claimed that only Turkish authorities knew about the fact that there had been hospitals of the “Doctors Without Borders” organization in Idlib and Azaz by the previous day. There is no information concerning these establishments anywhere including the website of the “Doctors Without Borders”.

In a Foreign Policy article dated February 16th, Syrian MSF Hospital Kept Location Secret to Avoid Being Bombed, the reason for this is quite clear. Those running the medical facility in Idlib were concerned that sharing the location would more likely make them a target, having seen many other medical facilities attacked in Syria.

The Russian Defence Ministry then moves onto slightly more bizarre accusations:

Moreover, messages concerning the allegedly destroyed hospitals and schools in Azaz dated February 10 can be simply found on the website.

In other words, this fabrication had been prepared but not realized the day before the meeting of the heads of foreign ministries of Russia and the USA in Munich, the results of which, as the Russian Defence Ministry assumes, are so opposed by Turkey.

This appears to refer to articles on the MSF website published on February 10th, Syria: Health system close to collapse in war-torn Azaz district and Syria: Escalation of Conflict in Azaz District Could Have Dire Consequences, which refer to the situation in the Azaz district:

Meanwhile, the fighting continues to put extreme pressure on the already devastated healthcare system. This includes several hospitals and smaller health facilities in Azaz and the rural areas around Aleppo city, having been hit by airstrikes in the last two weeks, including at least three MSF-supported hospitals.

“Azaz district has seen some of the heaviest tolls of this brutal war, and yet again we are seeing healthcare under siege,” said Muskilda Zancada, MSF head of mission, Syria. “We are extremely concerned about the situation in the south of the district, where medical staff, fearing for their lives, have been forced to flee and hospitals have either been completely closed, or can only offer limited emergency services.”

To claim, as the Russian Defence Ministry does, that these reports are fabrications some how accidentally published ahead of time, is frankly bizarre, something you’d expect to see on a badly written conspiracy blog rather than an official statement from any Defence Ministry. Next the Russian Defence Ministry claims:

In the message dated February 15 concerning the allegedly destroyed hospital in Idlib, there is no photo or video of this building: neither undamaged nor destroyed.

Two article on the MSF website were posted on February 15th about the attacks, At Least Seven Killed and Eight Missing in Attack on MSF-Supported Hospital in Northern Syria and MSF-Supported Hospital in Northern Syria Destroyed in Attack, both of which carry photographs of the building destroyed in Idlib:

MSF Idlib

Next, the Russian Defence Ministry raises where the stories are being reported from:

It is to be emphasized one more time: neither Syria, nor Idlib or Aleppo; it was the Turkish city of Gaziantep near the border with Syria.

By the way, that was the city where, by a strange coincidence, the largest training camps had been organized under the aegis of the Turkish secret services for militants arriving into the country from other countries including CIS who were then sent to Syria to fight within terrorist groupings.

If anybody in the Turkish Republic thinks that the Russian party does not guess that, they should not indulge in illusions.

Both messages concerning the allegedly destroyed hospitals and schools in Azaz dated February 10 and Idlib dated February 15 have the same origin – “Gaziantep. Turkey”.

This seems to refer to location the MSF articles are filed from, which seems to have confused the Russian Defence Ministry. As with many articles, the location of where the story is filed from is reported, in fact on one of the February 15th articles the location is Gaziantep/Paris. To imagine this is indicative of some sort of conspiracy is yet another bizarre statement by the Russian Defence Ministry. The Russian Defence Ministry finishes with:

The information concerning the place where these fabrications had been made has been published, apparently due to negligence of authors or editors of the website.

It’s unclear whether or not the Russian Defence Ministry actually believes this absolute nonsense, or have reached the point of being so desperate to deflect criticism that they make up any rubbish to defend themselves, even if it’s laughable conspiracy theories about MSF and Turkey plotting against them.

Eliot Higgins

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat and the Brown Moses Blog. Eliot focuses on the weapons used in the conflict in Syria, and open source investigation tools and techniques.

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  1. Mad Dog

    So guys, you can all see from the above that Randy has successfully diverted our attention away from the original post. Who gives a flyin F whether Italy lost the war, who cares that China can mold millions of goose-stepping martinets, who cares that nothing has proven the assertions by the Russians. The major point in this discssion now seems to be “You remind me of several of the commentors from RT. You drag out an invalid point until even you can no longer defend it and then you resort to insults.”, a successful diversion by all accounts. Yet, the assertion here still seems to be valid and Russia continues to bomb hospitals with impunity.

    • Andrea

      Doing this he also shows the insignificance of his reasonings, his faulty logic, his double standards. Show us being affected by schizophrenia and amnesia attacks…
      Therefore denying himself even the slightest credibility regarding his future comments…but probably it’s just what he’s paid for…or a sociopathic who feels better doing this…who knows…

      But in the end he went away … he’s probably trolling with a different nick on a different website…as trolling here was probably too difficult…
      He’ll come back with the next BC publication, and he’ll stay here for a couple of days, just to try trolling while the article has more visibility…then he’ll fade away again…

      • stranger

        What do you have agains Randy? He trolls in a nice, intelligent and polite way. Because this site gives so much fancy opportunities to troll. 🙂

        • Sam

          Randy is neither nice or intelligent, he just post what he is paid to post, but he’s not a very good troll.

          His manager should fire him for making trolls be so obvious that Putin will lose the info war.

          Did all the good trolls in St. Petersburg quit, because they aren’t bring their A game (best) to this website.

          Hint to Putin, the more pathetic your trolls, the less effective the message, and cumulatively, you lose any trust.

          • Andrea

            he just shouts what passes in his mind, never gave some external references supporting his ideas…
            If that’s being intellingent and smart…
            About the politeness…you can see by yourself his xenophobia…

    • Andrea

      The original post is still above…but honestly there is so little to comment on such ridiculous claims…it would have been boring…and indefensible.
      We should ask ourselves how can russian citizens be proud of their MoD…even swiss one would show more professionalism 🙂

  2. stranger

    Do you think Russia deliberately bombed a hospital? In case it was Russia. The article contains zero evidences who it was. The article is about nothing.
    In the meantime Russia and US agreed on the cease fire starting from 27th. At the same time Russia proposed UN to take a declaration against any invasion to internal affairs of Syria, which was vetoed by US, GB, France and also refused by New Zealand, Spain and of course Ukraine. Trolling? Anyway Russia is the only country in Syria who is there in accordance to the international law.

    • Mad Dog

      yeah, probably it was intentional. They have done it before and they will do it again. Why? because they have the same attitude as Randy has expressed. They are all terrorist medical facilities. The article is about Russia evading any kind of responsibility with a set of invalid statements. As such, it is about something.

      As for Randy, he does not always troll in a nice intelligent and especially polite way. Maybe you missed that Stranger. IMHO, you are far more polite.

    • Sam

      Yeah, some of us believe Putin deliberately bombed the hospitals as part of a strategic war plan to help Assad.

      Is Russia in Ukraine under international law? No Russia violated several treaties that they signed.

      Nobody can get evidence when Russia double taps and kills all the rescuers

      • stranger

        The fact the rescuers were attacked again witnesses it was not Russia. Why would it? To make a spectacular picture for the western press?
        In Ukraine there was a coup first, absolutely meaningless as we can see now. Everybody has lost.

        • Andrea

          a lot of the raids against “moderate rebels” in civilian areas were double taps … and as long as the international coalition doesn’t want to drop bombs on those areas seems legit to believe those double taps were made by russians…or syrians … as i guess are now under the same hierarchy … russian made, or russian ordered anyway…
          Am i wrong?

        • Sam

          The Ukrainians seemed to have won. They are slowly but surely getting rid of the corruption that Russians tolerate.

          The corrupt Ukrainian president fled to your home, Russia, where everyone tolerates corruption. He’d go to jail in real countries.

          Russia doesn’t need external enemies, it is going to destroy itself.

          Double tap, Russian planes bomb all the witnesses.

          • stranger

            I would not be so optimistic. Ukrainian currency vs USD has fallen 3 times and proportionally lowed were the standard of living. Europe is going to be disappointed soon, there is a lot of critics arisen and actually EU didn’t even promised much. Holland is going to conduct a referendum on the Ukrainian association and the sentiments there are not so nice. The trading ties with Russia, a major trade partner, are being torn. Corruption flourish, that is not what Russia brings, that is something intrinsic to Ukraine as well regardless of who is the president. So again as the result of all this meaningless madness everybody looses, except US may be.

    • Sam


      You need to decide if you love Putin or you love Russia.

      Only one is going to exist in a few years…..

      A corrupt Putin FSB Russia, or a Russia for real Russians.

      Russia is full of the great Russian people, but Putin is the new Hitler, his path will destroy Russia.

      The West didn’t humiliate Russia, the Russians humiliated themselves. And they are doing it again.

      • stranger

        Putin will go sooner or later. I’m afraid the problem is not exactly in Putin. If it were so simple.

      • Mad Dog

        Sam is right here. And the retort from Stranger is also a very important question to ponder. China is also hell bent on repressing dissent and Xi is doing his damnedest to bring everyone in line under the party banner. Once China begins to feel confident, there will be hell to pay in Russia as well…they have what they feel is a valid historical claim to parts of Russia and they have shown they will back up such claims. Russia is a spoiled child, but China will become a rabid tiger in the not too distant future. So, Russia should start thinking about future alliances and stop the silliness in Ukraine.

        • stranger

          Do you know btw that Russia gave China some small islands at the border? While Japan cannot get Kuril islands back, those taken by Russia in ww2, and still cannot forget it.
          As for the full scale war, first of all nobody needs it, there are other economic interests and economic means to drain a country or rob it by own oligarchs. Look at Argentina for example, Russia in 90th and still, etc. There are technologies of ‘color revolutions’ like Arab Spring, recently Ukraine, geopolitics to split neighbor countries in a region, like in the ME, etc. That are more realistic scenarios. While the full scale war is not possible due to the nuclear defense.

          • Sam

            Russia in the 90’s? Russian Oligharchs and Putin are still robbing your country, and you support them!

            Color revolutions, do you really think they are sponsored by the CIA, not just a bunch a people unhappy with their corrupt governments or ruling class?

            The US gave Ukraine $5 billion but the US gave Russia $30 billion in the same time period.

            The Russians are the ones splitting neighbors, by calling the Ukrainians Fascits and Neo-Nazis. Ukrops

            Russia has more Neo-Nazis and Fascits, you can easily find them online. Many of they are in Dombass fighting.

            Russians and Ukrainians probably will lose their brotherhood feeling for generations, all bc people like Putin and you.

            Russia is going to fall apart from within, nothing with the CIA, just Kremlin mismanagement.

            Part of eastern Russia will probably be sold to China, bc Putin can’t afford to manage it.

            Putin is a FSB/FSB guy, he doesn’t understand economics, and now he is a war monger…. Georgia, Transnistria, Ukraine, and Syria.

          • stranger

            “The US gave Ukraine $5 billion but the US gave Russia $30 billion in the same time period” where exactly did those money come to?

            Potential new oligarchs has already lined up like vultures. Michail Khodorkovskiy for example, calling for a revolution and saying it is not necessarily be bloody. I mean it will not be gone when Putin finally leaves.

  3. Andrea

    If Russia had nothing to do with that hospital why did MoD barked so many useless and inconsistent statements … if it wasn’t them …
    Here in Italy we use this figure of speech: “the first hen to sing is the one who made the egg”…

    HAHAHAHAH…respecting international laws…hahahaha…respecting ONE international law….they forgot all the others…


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