Russia says Syrian civilian deaths are a 'heavy burden', but that's what happens in war

The country's ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin also attacked Boris Johnson over his calls for protests outside the Russian embassy

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Russia’s UN ambassador has said his country regrets any civilian casualties from Moscow’s military campaign in Syria but added, “this is what happens during war”.

Vitaly Churkin argued that Russian military leaders are “trying to do our best” in selecting targets carefully and that they hoped for a ceasefire soon.

He also lashed out at Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after he called for protests outside the Russian embassy in London and claimed he would have to do more than write “funny verses” if he wants to be taken seriously.

Following a week in which Russia’s bombing of Aleppo has made headlines, Mr Churkin said he had seen pictures of bombed-out buildings and children caught in the crossfire.

He said: “If they somehow were affected by our military campaign, of course we regret it incredibly and this is a heavy burden on our psyche and our soul.”

Speaking to the BBC, he said military planners are “trying to do our best and our military have said repeatedly how we…about selecting targets.”

But he added: “If there is bombing and there are some civilians that are hurt, it’s a very bad feeling that we have, but this is what happens during war and hopefully cessation of hostilities could come into effect as quickly as possible.”

Earlier this week, the Foreign Secretary called for protests outside the Russian embassy to highlight what he suggested could be war-crimes committed in the bombing campaign in Syria.

Boris Johnson calls for protests outside the Russian Embassy over Syria conflict

But Mr Churkin said Mr Johnson should abandon “delusions of grandeur” and that he is not the judge of whether Russia is on the side of legality, adding that the International Criminal Court had not yet started looking into incidents during the UK’s bombing in Libya.

Mr Churkin said: “This is quite inappropriate for a Foreign Secretary. He should  respect the Vienna convention.

“He should have diplomatic tools at his disposal. Writing funny verses are not going to do it, if he is going to try to become a serious Foreign Secretary.”

Mr Johnson  won a £1,000 prize for a rude poem about the Turkish president having sex with a goat.

The limerick, published by the Spectator as a rebuff to President Erdogan’s efforts to prosecute a German comedian’s offensive poem, also called the leader a “wankerer”.