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Russia Has Denied Carrying Out Air Strikes That Killed Dozens of Civilians in Syria

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Russia has denied that its warplanes were used in airstrikes on a village in eastern Syria Sunday that activists and observer groups say killed dozens of civilians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog group based in the U.K., says 53 people were killed in bombings on the village of al-Shafah, including 21 children, BBC reports.

The group said Russian aircraft supporting Syrian pro-government forces, which are trying to dislodge the Islamic State (IS) from the region on the border of Iraq, was responsible for the attack.

Deirezzor24, an activist news website, reported that the strikes targeted residential buildings, and estimated the toll at 25. The site also alleged that Russia carried out the strikes.

The Russian Defense Ministry responded with a statement dated Nov. 27, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’s location in the U.K. and calling the reports “yet another fake.”

“The Russian Aerospace Forces’ strikes in Syria target areas outside population centers, and only facilities of the international terrorist groups,” the statement said, as reported by Russian news agencies cited by the BBC.

A previous statement had confirmed that six that six Russian long-range bombers hit IS positions in Deir al-Zour province on the same day, the BBC reports.

Al-Shafah is about 68 miles south of the city of Deir al-Zour. The nearby town of Boukamal, a district administrative center, was recaptured by Bashar al-Assad’s forces earlier this month, according to the Associated Press.

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Write to Eli Meixler at eli.meixler@time.com