The Russian Defense Ministry’s official spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, made the claim less than 24 hours after an aid convoy, run by the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), was attacked in rebel-held Urem al-Kubra, leaving at least 20 civilians dead and 18 of the 31 trucks destroyed.
In contast to statements from eyewitnesses and the United Nations, Konashenkov claimed that there was no evidence that the convoy had been targeted by air strikes.
"We have carefully studied the so-called 'activists'' videos from the scene and have found no sign whatsoever of any kind of munitions striking the convoy. There are no corresponding craters, the vehicles have no damage to their bodies or structural fractures from the blast wave of air-launched munitions," Konashenkov said on September 20.
However, video and photographic evidence all convincingly point to the convoy being attack by aircraft.
Footage of the attack itself, filmed by paramedic and media activist Mohammed Rasoul, records bursts of auto-cannon fire (probably from helicopter gunships) and two missile impacts, all accompanied by the sound of jet engines.
Contrary to what Konashenkov said, photos of the vehicles at the scene show signs of massive damage and there are indeed craters, most tellingly in the SARC warehouse, where the crushed tail of a Russian-made OFAB 250-270 high-explosive fragmentation bomb can be seen sticking out of the mass of rubble and smashed packages.
Konashenkov also claimed that Russian reconnaissance drones had stopped tracking the aid convoy at “around 13:40.”
This too appears to be false.
On the day of the attack, Russia’s state-owned RT network ran a live stream from the Defense Ministry, relaying footage from a Russian drone over the Aleppo region.
The stream began broadcasting at 15:17 local time (Moscow and Damascus are currently on the same time zone due to daylight saving time in Syria). Around an hour into the stream, the camera zooms in on the convoy, parked on the outskirts of Urem al-Kubra.
This means that the Russian military was still monitoring the convoy no earlier than 16:17, around an hour before sunset.
Eyewitnesses to the attack actually reported that a reconnaissance drone was circling the area at this time and that the attack began shortly after sundown.
A second video was released by the Russian Defense Ministry, showing the convoy parked in nearby Khan al-Asal, which appears, based on the visible shadows, to have been filmed no later than 16:00.
Given that the first video does not show the convoy in Khan al-Asal at the time it was filmed in the other, and the very different quality and framing of the video, this indicates that the aid convoy was being tracked by at least two Russian drones in the hours prior to the attack.
Furthermore, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has confirmed that both the Syrian regime and the Russian military were informed in advance of the precise itinerary of the convoy.
A few days later the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, threw out two contradictory suggestions, repeating Konashenkov’s claim that there was no crater, but also claiming that the video of the aftermath of the attack did in fact indicate there had been an attack from the air, but by an American drone.
Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reported on September 26 that Lavrov told the NTV channel that "traces of aluminum powder, a characteristic feature of ammunition Predator drones are armed with. Also, the Americans by no means deny that their drone was above the area ofAleppo where the humanitarian convoy came under attack at the moment of the strike."
It is hard to discern whether there really are any such “traces of aluminum powder” in the footage, nor if that is really an indicator of US weaponry, but the presence of the Russian-made bomb at the scene and the video of auto-cannon fire (Predator drones do not have guns, nor jet engines for that matter) suggest that the attack was not carried out by such a craft.
Given the rapid decision by the Russian Defense Ministry to react to the incident and their knowledge of the convoys whereabouts, combined with the presence of Russian-made weaponry and claims from the United States that two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bombers were tracked over the Urem al-Kubra area at the precise time of the attack, all signs suggest that Russian aircraft were either directly responsible or coordinated with regime air assets in conducting the attack.