Russian warplanes bombed four hospitals in rebel-held territory in Syria over a period of just 12 hours earlier this year, The New York Times reported on Sunday (October 13).
The May strikes -- which the newspaper tied to Moscow through Russian radio recordings, plane spotter logs and accounts by witnesses -- are part of a larger pattern of medical facilities targeted by forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's devastating civil war.
Nabad al Hayat Surgical Hospital -- which staff had fled three days earlier in anticipation of the facility being bombed -- was one of those struck during the 12-hour period beginning on May 5, according to the Times' investigation.
A Russian ground controller gave the exact co-ordinates of the hospital to the pilot, who reported having it in sight a few minutes later, the newspaper said.
The controller gave the go-ahead for the strike at the same time that a spotter who was tasked with warning civilians about impending strikes logged a Russian jet in the area.
The pilot then reported releasing bombs, and local journalists filming the hospital recorded three bombs going through its roof and exploding.
Kafr Nabl Surgical Hospital -- just a few kilometres away -- was bombed multiple times shortly afterwards.
As with the earlier strike, a spotter registered one of Moscow's jets circling, and a Russian air force transmission recorded a pilot saying he had "worked" the target before delivering three strikes that were confirmed by a doctor, the Times said.
The Kafr Zita Cave Hospital and Al Amal Orthopedic Hospital were also bombed by Russian aircraft during the 12-hour period. All four facilities had provided their co-ordinates to the United Nations (UN) for inclusion on a list to avoid strikes.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced last month that he was setting up an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria that had previously flagged their co-ordinates.
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov in a lengthy statement reacting to the report claimed The New York Times had become a "victim of manipulation by terrorists and British security services".
Read the entire New York Times report here.
Russian campaign of terror
Meanwhile, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) slammed the Russian regime for committing "hundreds of war crimes" during its military operations in Syria since 2015.
In its 40-page report issued September 30, the fourth anniversary of Moscow's military intervention in the Syrian conflict, the human rights group says Russian military operations have resulted in more than 6,500 civilians deaths.
Moscow has not apologised for these deaths, nor has it compensated any of the victims' families, the report says, pointing out that it has continued to deny its bombing of hospitals, civil defence facilities and residential neighbourhoods.
Russian forces have killed 6,686 civilians in the last four years, among them 1,928 children and 908 women, according to evidence collected by Syrian activists on the ground.
Medics and media activists were among those killed in Russian strikes, with 107 medics and 21 media workers losing their lives.
Russian forces have bombed at least 1,083 vital facilities that are protected by international conventions in times of war, including 201 schools and 190 medical facilities, according to the report.
This human rights report comes after the United States on September 26 announced new sanctions targeting a Russian smuggling operation in Syria in response to confirmation of another chemical weapons attack by al-Assad's forces.
The al-Assad regime used chlorine on May 19 in Latakia Province during its offensive to take back the last major rebel stronghold in nearby Idlib.
The United States and France had both earlier aired suspicions of a chemical bombardment but had held off on making a formal determination, saying more research was needed.
Al-Assad has repeatedly used chemical weapons against civilian targets in his brutal quest to win the civil war, in which more than 370,000 people have died, say international investigators.