Published: Wed, February 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

United States airstrike killed 'dozens' of Russian contractors in Syria

United States airstrike killed 'dozens' of Russian contractors in Syria

He says they need to be verified. For reasons that remain unclear, Syrian government troops and some Russian nationals appear to have attacked a coalition position, near Al Tabiyeh, Syria.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking on a conference call with reporters, said he had no information about any such casualties.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis says Russia has told the USA there were no Russians in the area of the strike. "I think the Russians would have told us", said Mattis. "We have not received that word at Central Command or at the Pentagon", he told a media briefing on Tuesday.

"I know he didn't die alone", said Alexander Averin, a spokesman for a far-left Other Russia party, describing the death in Syria of party member Kirill Ananyev. The veteran Russian politician, who has been unsuccessfully running for president several times since the 1990s, did not provide any source for the claims, apart from media and social media reports.

"Pro-regime forces initiated what appeared to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces east of the Euphrates river", Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement, referring to the SDF, which the USA has trained, equipped, and backed for years. Reuters reported yesterday that "dozens" had died, though that was unconfirmed.

It's a scenario many feared in the fog of Syria's multi-front war: a confrontation in which USA forces, responding to a provocation, kill Russian soldiers or mercenaries on a crowded battlefield.

The U.S. -led coalition said it thwarted an "unprovoked attack" by pro-government fighters on a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) headquarters in Deir Ezzor province after midnight Wednesday.

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.

Widespread reports suggest Russian military contractors drove the tank and had been behind multiple attacks on the USA and its allies in Syria. As a result, as many as 200 members of that battalion-sized unit were killed in USA -led air and artillery strikes.

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And responding to a further BBC question, the spokesman said: " And, of course, you have to realise that many countries of the world have quite large numbers of our compatriots - of Russians - and, of course, it's hard to have detailed data.

The Sochi Congress, in which all segments of the Syria people including Syrian Kurds had participated, proved that the Syrians are firmly committed to their country's unity and safety, which is clearly highlighted in the final statement of the Congress, Bogdanov clarified. However, he casts doubts on the reports, noting that the whole column, which was alleged bombed out in the USA attack, counted "a bit more than 500 people".

One of the dead was 51-year-old Vladimir Loginov.

There have been doubts about the accuracy of the death toll, with many commentators deeming it inflated and pointing to discrepancies between different accounts.

Following up to last night's bombshell report that at least two Russian mercenary fighters in Syria had been killed by us -led coalition forces, this morning Bloomberg is out with an exclusive, according to which the body count is far greater than had been disclosed: USA forces reportedly killed "scores" of Russian contract soldiers in Syria last week "in what may be the deadliest clash between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War" Bloomberg reported.

Both Russian and USA officials said they had no information on Russian losses in Syria on February 7.

In the past several years, the United States has supported some opposition groups in Syria which it called "moderates" against the Syrian government and also led an worldwide coalition to battle the IS group.

"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", he said.

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