President Vladimir Putin has dismissed suggestions that Russia could face war crimes charges over its bombardment of Syria’s second city Aleppo.
He told French media the accusations were”rhetoric” that did not take into account the realities in Syria.
French President Francois Hollande had suggested Russian air strikes on Aleppo could amount to war crimes.
The rebel-held east of the city is under renewed bombardment after a ceasefire deal broke down.
Despite recriminations over who was to blame for its failure, Russia and the US agreed on Wednesday to resume talks on Syria.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will now meet his US counterpart John Kerry and other key regional powers in Switzerland on Saturday.
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he hoped some progress would be made at the talks but admitted it would be hard.
Speaking with BBC’s Lyse Doucet in New York, he said there was international disarray over how to end the fighting.
Mr Churkin too rejected allegations of Russian war crimes in eastern Aleppo but expressed what he called incredible regret over civilian casualties. He said if they were caused by his country’s bombing it would be a heavy burden on Russia’s psyche and soul.
Mr Putin told France’s TF1 TV channel that Russia would pursue “terrorists” even if they hid among civilians.
“We can’t allow terrorists to use people as human shields and blackmail the entire world,”
he said, adding that civilian deaths were the “sad reality of war”.
Responding to claims that Russian air strikes on civilian areas amounted to war crimes he said:
“It’s political rhetoric that does not mean much and does not take into account the realities in Syria.
“I am deeply convinced that it is our Western partners, first and foremost of course the United States, who are responsible for the situation.”
Russia has accused the US of secretly supporting al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in Syria in its bid to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The US rejects the claim.