US Strikes Killed Scores of Russia Fighters in Syria, Sources Say
14 February, 2018, 19:31 | Author: Kim Reid
The reports follow one from Reuters on Monday, where former associates of two of the Russians killed identified them to the news wire.
Syrian pro-government forces patrol in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour in November.
Retired Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, head of the defense committee in the lower house of Russia's parliament, said the government needs to oversee private military contractors.
Without mentioning the US strike, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that "Americans have taken unsafe unilateral steps".
Washington at the time said it was not ruling out the possibility that Russian contractors could have been among the attacking force. It says 25 Syrian volunteers were wounded in the USA strike.
Bloomberg News quoted Russian sources as saying as many as 200 Russian nationals could have been killed in a clash last Wednesday and Thursday around the oil fields of Deir Ezzor region between forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad and a Kurdish-led opposition force supported by USA advisers. There were American advisers at the SDF base who called in an airstrike.
The US responded with air and artillery strikes on 7 February, thwarting the attack and forcing the pro-Assad fighters to retreat, the US officials say. United States coalition forces were in "regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the thwarted, unprovoked attack", he wrote.
The Russian Defense Ministry later said that the Syrian militia came under attack while conducting a reconnaissance operation that was not coordinated with the Russian side, estimating there were 25 casualties resulting from the US-coalition airstrikes.
"Officially denying deaths of armed Russian citizens that fight in Syria by the leadership of Russia is absolutely unacceptable". USA and Russian military officials have maintained daily contact to avoid collisions between their forces.
"If Russians are among those who were killed, this would mark the first time a U.S. air strike has killed Russians in Syria", CBS News' David Martin reported. However, it is possible that the Russian military was not aware of the attack planned by the Russian contract soldiers acting on orders of the Assad regime.
"The call for an immediate cessation of hostilities ... has gone unanswered", al-Za'tari said. Citing unverified preliminary reports "from Syria" he claimed that as many as 644 could have been killed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, reaffirmed Wednesday that the Kremlin has no information about the Russian losses in the clash.
If Russian deaths from the USA strike are confirmed, it would mean the two countries were on the verge of a direct military confrontation in Syria. "I advise you to contact the defence ministry".
"We recommend not treating media reports as primary sources", he added.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that, from Russia's point of view, the United States seems like it is planning to stay in Syria for a long time, maybe even forever.
There's a refinery in Deir Ezzor that once funded Islamic State operations that's now "crucial" to Assad's plans to finance the reconstruction of Syria once a peace deal is finally reached, according to Yury Barmin, a Middle East analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow. In the following figures, the number of the killed soldiers of the Russian private military company "Wagner" has reached more than 200 people.
An unknown number of private military contractors have also died.
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