A man beside the body of a victim from the alleged Russian raid on Areeha, November 29th (via SN4HR)
A man beside the body of a civilian victim of a reported Russian raid on Areeha, Aleppo, November 29th 2015 (via Syrian Network for Human Rights)

Alleged civilian casualties from Russian airstrikes in Syria

Airwars maintains an extensive database of all known allegations in which civilians have been reported killed by Russia since September 30th 2015. Our month by month published records include a case report on every known alleged event; photographs, videos, names of the dead where known; links to all known sources; and our provisional incident assessment.

Due to the scale of the Russian campaign and the number of civilian casualty allegations, our team is rolling out monthly assessments as we are able to complete them. Also see A Reckless Disregard – our report on the first three months of Russian airstrikes.

Claims of civilians allegedly killed by the US-led Coalition can be found here.

April 2016

April marked the low water mark of Russia’s campaign – with only a relatively small number of civilians reported killed.

March 2016

Civilian fatalities from likely Russian airstrikes continued to decline from their January peak – though many still died.

February 2016

Despite a Syria-wide ceasefire and partial drawdown, hundreds of civilians still died in Russian actions.

January 2016

The first month of 2016 saw a doubling of civilian deaths from likely Russian strikes, with heavy attacks on Aleppo

December 2015

The last month of 2015 saw a steep rise in Russian strikes and in reported civilian deaths – often in mass casualty events.

Source: SNN Al Saween

November 2015

Russia significantly expanded its air war, with civilians reported killed in large numbers – particularly in western Syria.

Source: SN4HR Izaz Nov 25

October 2015

Russia’s air campaign targeted Islamist militants and opposition fighters. Reports also soon emerged of the deliberate targeting of civilian areas – despite Russian denials

Source: Salaheddin White Helmets

Sept 2015

Russian airstrikes in support of the embattled Assad regime began on the last day of September – with immediate reports of multiple civilian casualties across Syria

Source: Rescuers VDC Zafaraniya

Russian airstrikes in Syria to February 27th 2017

Our researchers have so far identified a total of 1,904 claimed civilian casualty events in Syria allegedly involving Russian aircraft, between September 30th 2015 and February 27th 2017. The total claimed range for these alleged events is 8,324 to 11,282 non-combatants reported killed. At least 3,962 of the dead from these alleged events have so far been named by local media, social media and casualty recorders.

Due to the high number of alleged incidents, Airwars is rolling out individual monthly reports as our team completes provisional assessments. Below we present a comprehensive breakdown of our published findings to date.

Estimated minimum civilian deaths from Russian airstrikes to April 30th 2016

The map plots all Confirmed and Fair minimum civilian fatality events from Russian airstrikes in Syria, aggregated by unique location.
Graphics by Airwars – Basile Simon. . Geolocation by Christiaan Triebert.

Summary findings on Russian airstrikes:
September 30th 2015 to April 30th 2016 only

Between September 30th and April 30th 2016 only, a total of 784 reported civilian casualty incidents allegedly involving Russian aircraft have been identified by our researchers.

Claims are drawn from Syrian monitoring groups; from media and social media sites; from militant and rebel groups; and via local and international NGOs and news organisations. These have been cross checked where possible against official Russian military releases.

An overall total of between 3,895 and 5,354 civilian non-combatant deaths have been alleged from these 784 events, although as we explain below this overstates likely civilian deaths from Russian strikes.

Moscow continues to deny killing any civilians in its continuing air campaign in Syria. Lt. General Sergei Rudskoy of the Russian General Staff insisted to reporters that as of April 27th 2016 there had been no civilian casualties from its airstrikes.

Despite Russia’s claims, it is our provisional view at Airwars that to April 30th 2016 only, between 2,210 and 2,984 civilian non-combatants are likely to have been killed in 423 Syrian incidents where there is fair reporting publicly available of an event – and where Russian strikes appear to have taken place in the near vicinity on that date.

Indeed, more civilians appear to have been killed by Russia in the seven months to April 30th 2016 than from all credibly-reported Coalition civilian fatality events since August 2014.

As well as inflicting excessive civilian casualties, Russia is credibly reported to have extensively targeted civilian infrastructure in Syria – with water treatment plants, bakeries, food distribution depots and aid convoys all struck.

Civilian neighbourhoods were often systematically targeted across rebel areas. More than 3,168 civilians are also credibly reported injured in the 423 lethal events we assess as likely having involved Russian aircraft – a reasonable indicator of the low-precision munitions presently favoured by Moscow.

A significant proportion (33%) of the 784 overall alleged incidents involving Russia are contested – where it remains unclear whether Russia or other parties were responsible. Between 1,311 and 1,881 civilians died in these 259 contested events. The question here is not whether civilians died – the public record almost always shows that they did – but only whether Russia or the Assad regime was responsible.

Some 21 claimed incidents may also have involved Coalition rather than Russian aircraft according to reports – an indicator sign of the chaotic situation in Syria today. Between 154 and 236 civilians died in these alleged events.

A further 126 to 148 likely civilian deaths are attributed to 69 alleged Russian airstrikes which are presently weakly reported or single-sourced. Finally, a small number of alleged events (twelve, or 1.5 %) have in our view been discounted, ie are highly unlikely to have involved Russian aircraft.

Syrian casualty monitor estimates

For reference we also include the latest aggregated Russian civilian fatality estimates from the leading Syrian casualty recorders.

Monitoring group
Estimated minimum civilian
deaths from Russian airstrikes
Syrian Network for Human Rights 3,558
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 4,484
Averaged estimated civilian deaths to
December 8th 2016
4,021

How we grade alleged incidents

Because of wide variations in the quality of casualty recording, Airwars uses a grading system for events alleging non-combatant or ‘friendly fire’ deaths from Russian and Coalition airstrikes. These are:

Confirmed: Where Russia has accepted responsibility for the killing of non-combatants or allied forces in a particular incident.

Fair: Reasonable level of public reporting of alleged incident from two or more generally credible sources (often with biographical, photographic or video evidence). There are also on occasion confirmed Russian strikes in the vicinity for that date. We believe these cases in particular require urgent investigation.

Weak: Presently single source claims. Even so, these may feature biographical or photographic detail from a reputable source, with Russian strikes also sometimes confirmed in the vicinity.

Contested Events: Where there are claims of both Russian and/or Coalition or Assad regime aircraft having carried out strikes at a location; or where Assad regime ground forces have also been blamed.

Discounted: Those cases where our researchers or others can either demonstrate that those killed were combatants; where no Russian or Assad regime strike took place at the location; or where an incident did not result in any civilian casualties.

Also see our Methodology

Additional resources

Airwars monitors media and social media sites in Syria for claims of Russian-inflicted casualties. We also collate reports from local casualty recording groups, and follow up on allegations where possible.

Extensive additional civilian casualties are caused by other parties to both the Iraq and Syria conflicts. These include Iraqi and Syrian government forces and allied militias; so-called moderate opposition forces; and militant and terror groups including Islamic State/ Daesh and the al-Nusra Front.

A number of monitoring groups based in the Middle East and elsewhere issue daily reports which cover not just civilians killed by Russia and the US-led Coalition, but all of those affected by the wars in Iraq and Syria. You can find more information below:

Syrian Network for Human Rights
Violations Documentation Center
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
Raqaa is Being Slaughtered Silently

White Helmets
Bellingcat (geolocation of strikes)
Russian Ministry of Defence