Moscow Preliminarily Confirms Death of 5 Russians in Coalition's Strike in Syria

18 February, 2018, 06:58 | Author: Kim Reid
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The U.S. Defense Department has said air strikes launched after as many as 500 pro-government forces attacked a base housing opposition forces and U.S. military advisers killed about 100 of the attackers.

Much about the fighting and the associated casualties has been obscured in the fog of war.

"The organization's leaders have reportedly received awards in the Kremlin", the paper said, "and its mercenaries are trained at the Russian Defense Ministry's facilities". Their strategic objective may have been securing a nearby oil field.

Harrigian said the US -backed coalition contacted the Russians through the "deconfliction" telephone line to make them aware of the unprovoked attack.

Their reported deaths come after the US-led coalition against jihadists struck the Coneco plant last week in retaliation for an attack on an SDF base near the gas field on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river. "My hunch is both the Syrians and the Russians thought they could get away with it and grab some oil assets with the SDF distracted by the Turkish offensive, but miscalculated", he said.

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However, many Russian citizens are fighting in Syria as mercenaries working for a private military company called Wagner, according to numerous reports.

The Kremlin has sidestepped questions about the episode, even as it faces rare criticism at home over its failure to acknowledge the deaths of Russians in Syria.

"If there has been mass deaths of Russian citizens in Syria, then the relevant authorities, including the general staff of the Russian armed forces, have a duty to inform the country about this and decide who bears responsibility", Yavlinsky, who is running against Putin in next month's election, said on Twitter.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has acknowledged that some Russian citizens could also be in Syria but that Moscow does not have any information about them. This may be the deadliest encounter between American and Russian citizens since the Cold War. "A setback would have extremely undesirable consequences", Nebenzia said. Putin and US President Donald Trump spoke over the phone Monday (12 February) but did not discuss military action in Syria.

The Pentagon has not confirmed the composition of the pro-Assad forces involved in Wednesday's incident, but reports previously said Russian mercenaries were among the group. Yet there are hundreds if not thousands of contract soldiers in Syria whom the Russian government has never acknowledged.

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She accused Iran, a key Syrian ally, of sending fighters to every front of the conflict and of launching a drone into Israeli territory last week in "an egregious and unprompted escalation". In January alone, 211 civilians were killed in the province while another 1,447 were injured.

And some individual Russians have begun speaking out.

"As a state, we are not bound by, nor have any relation with, any committee that is not Syrian formed, led and constituted", said Ayman Soussan, assistant to the Syrian foreign minister, at a press conference in Damascus, according to Reuters. "I'm not willing to say that the Russians have lost influence or gained influence". She told journalists said his body was due to arrive in the southern town of Rostov-on-Don on Tuesday.

The Syrian government denounced the U.S. firestorm as a "massacre" and a "war crime", insisting that its fighters had been targeting remnants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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