Konashenkov made the claim in an August 19 statement issued two days after a strike on a building in the Al-Qaterji neighborhood of rebel-held Aleppo. The response came after images of a five-year-old boy, Omran Daqneesh, who was pulled from the rubble sparked an online firestorm by underscoring the plight of civilians still trapped in the war-ravaged city.
Fighting for control of Aleppo, which has been divided into a rebel-held eastern part and a government-controlled western part since 2012 and is now the focal point of the civil war, intensified in August after gains by rebel groups battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Moscow ally.
The Britain-based investigative group Bellingcat, using open-source material, refuted the Russian claims on September 1, saying photos and videos confirmed the reported attack was indeed inside Al-Qaterji and that Russian warplanes had done the damage.
In his statement, Konashenkov branded Western media reports on Omran as a "cynical exploitation" of the tragic situation in eastern Aleppo and "cliched anti-Russian propaganda." He suggested the attack could have been carried out by rebels in Aleppo using homemade rockets to target roads close to the humanitarian corridors to undermine Russia's efforts. He also said intact windows in a building next to the one bombed in Al-Qaterji suggested it was struck by a weapon such as a mortar used by the rebels and not an air strike.
"If a strike really did take place," Konashenkov said, it was not an aerial strike but either a gas cylinder "used in large quantities there by terrorists" or a mortar shell.
Bellingcat, however, said satellite images showed that not only were the windows of adjacent buildings missing, but two separate buildings were completely destroyed by the attack. “Having reviewed various broadcasts from Western TV channels about the attack, it is unclear which footage the Russian Defense Ministry could be referring to,” the group wrote.
Bellingcat also said observers who issue air-strike warnings had confirmed that minutes before the strike, a Russian military jet was observed taking off from Hmeim airport and heading northeast toward Aleppo. Reporters in Aleppo at the time of the incident also said the city had been targeted by aerial bombing, and Bellingcat said that the four humanitarian corridors Russia claims to have opened in Aleppo were all far away from Al-Qatarji.
Furthermore, the photographer who shot the video of Omran for the Aleppo Media Center, a network of activists, told The Telegraph that he took it after an air strike on August 17 hit the Al-Qaterji district.