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Russia concerned with reports of Turkey military shooting at refugees

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows a Turkish soldier standing guard on the Syrian border. (AFP photo)

Russia has expressed concerns about reports of Turkish military’s shooting at refugees struggling to cross into the country from Syria, calling for justice to be served for those responsible for alleged crimes.

“If reports are confirmed, it will be necessary to conduct thorough investigation, including possibly in the international format, to bring those guilty of such humanitarian crime to justice,” said Russian Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and Supremacy of Law Konstantin Dolgov.

The comments on Thursday came in reaction to an article published in The Times suggesting that Turkish border guards have been shooting refugees dead as people struggle to flee the violence in Syria.

“We are seriously concerned about the information that appeared in the media on this matter,” said Dolgov, adding, “This is among other flagrant violations of human rights that are permitted by Turkish authorities on the Turkish territory.”

According to information provided by the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group advocating the Syrian opposition, some 16 refugees including three children, were killed by guards as they crossed into Turkey over the past four months, the magazine said in its March 31 report.

The brutal treatment of refugees comes as Turkey has been tightening the grip on refugees arriving from Syria after Ankara reached a multi-billion-euro deal with the European Union for curbing the flow of refugees into Europe.

The deal reached last month has faced strong criticism from governments and international organizations, including the United Nations refugee agency, also known as the UNHCR, which swiftly slammed the agreement as facilitating the collective punishment of refugees.

Turkey has been one of the main backers of militants in Syria since a conflict erupted in the country in 2011. The Turkish government has accepted hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the war in Syria over the past years, only to allow them to cross into Greece via the Mediterranean.

Under the EU-Turkey deal, Ankara is supposed to take back all refugees reaching the Greek shores from April 4. Refugees, however, defy the agreement with reports on Friday suggesting many continued their sit-in protest on railway lines across Greece. The asylum seekers said they will not leave their makeshift camps unless they can cross the border into Macedonia.

Lawmakers in Greece were debating a bill on Friday whether to deport refugees back to Turkey as part of the agreement with Ankara.

Some 12,000 refugees are currently housed at Greece’s Idomeni camp alone. The government has said that it will not use force to remove them.

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