United Nations investigators have linked Russian forces to a possible war crime in Syria for the first time, reporting on Tuesday that a Russian plane was responsible for airstrikes on a market last year that killed scores of civilians. The plane carried out a series of attacks in November on the town of Al Atarib, west of Aleppo, killing at least 84 people and injuring more than 150, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria said. The strikes may not have specifically targeted civilians, the panel ruled, but the use of unguided blast bombs in a densely populated area could amount to a war crime on the part of Russia, which has played a crucial role in backing the Syrian government. The finding formed part of the panel's 15th report on the conflict in Syria, which also said that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in rebel-held areas of Damascus and that the United States-led coalition had inflicted heavy casualties in airstrikes aimed at Islamic State forces. "All parties share guilt for completely disregarding the rules of war and for failing to adequately protect civilians," the panel's chairman, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, told reporters in Geneva.
Russia has begun construction work on a bridge to its country's newest region, Crimea. The multi-billion dollar project started two years ago, after Russia seized control of Crimea from neighbouring Ukraine. The bridge is scheduled to open in 2018, and will provide a land and rail link across the Black Sea from the town of Taman, on the Russian mainland, to the Crimean port of Kerch.
Britain, the United States, France and Germany say they are united in blaming Russia for the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter. In a joint statement, the leaders say there is no "plausible alternative explanation" to the incident. The UK has expelled 23 Russian diplomats and suspended high-level contacts with Moscow. Russia is expected to retaliate in similar fashion.