LONDON - Britain has warned that Russia faces becoming an international outcast for its bombing campaign in support of Syrian government forces, which the West says has killed hundreds of civilians. The war of words has escalated sharply in recent days, after Russia vetoed a French motion at the United Nations Security Council calling for an end to airstrikes on Aleppo.
Barrel bombs, missile strikes and mortar shells have reduced much of Aleppo to rubble. Amid the twisted wreckage live an estimated 250,000 people at constant risk of annihilation as the bombs continue to fall.
Western powers have accused Russia of war crimes for firing bunker-busting and incendiary bombs on civilian areas — a charge Moscow has denied — despite the evidence on the ground. France has called for the International Criminal Court to investigate.
In an emergency parliamentary debate Tuesday, Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said Russia was becoming "a pariah nation."
"And if President Putin's strategy is to restore the greatness and the glory of Russia, then I believe he risks seeing his ambition turned to ashes in the face of international contempt for what is happening in Syria," said Johnson.
Lawmakers repeatedly called for Britain to help enforce a no-fly zone to protect civilians. Conservative MP Thomas Tugendhat said some military hardware already is in place.
"The helicopters that are dropping barrel bombs could easily be brought down by rockets based in Turkey, in Lebanon or indeed from our own Type 45s [warships] in the Mediterranean," said Tugendhat.
A no-fly zone was pushed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last month following an attack on a U.N. aid convoy. More hawkish voices are calling for Britain to back the idea. Alan Mendoza, director of policy group the Henry Jackson Society, is urging aggressive support.
"Come out and publicly say, 'America, we will stand with you on this if you intend to do it. And we will support it, indeed, with an application of our military force.' They [Russia] will not risk a confrontation once there’s a firm military presence to fight against, and you will end up with a much better chance of a negotiated solution," said Mendoza.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has stopped short of supporting any military action to enforce a no-fly zone against the Syrian government or Russian forces, saying, "It is for the international community to continue to put more pressure on Russia."
As relations between Moscow and the West continue to sour, Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled a visit to Paris that was scheduled for next week.