Russian Military Contractors Killed in US-Led Attack in Syria

Syrian pro-government members hold a position as they stand on the back of an armoured vehicle in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor

At least four Russian nationals, and perhaps dozens more, were killed in fighting between pro-government forces in eastern Syria and members of the United States-led coalition fighting Daesh, Russian and Syrian officials reported.

According to US Central Command, American and Kurdish forces came under fire from a tank, prompting three hours of intensive air strikes against an estimated 300 to 500 fighters loyal to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

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

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other USA officials said they had no information on Russian casualties in the February 7 clash, and the Kremlin did not confirm any Russian deaths.

"We don't have information about other Russians who might be in Syria". Alexander Averin, a spokesman for the nationalist party he was linked to, told Reuters Ananiev had been killed in shelling in the same fighting on Feb 7.

Without mentioning the U.S. strike, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said "Americans have taken risky unilateral steps". "But we do not dismiss a certain contribution by the American coalition to this achievement", Lavrov said.

Russian Federation also denies having personnel in the area.

The US and Russian militaries have de-confliction channels to prevent accidental clashes in Syria and alert each other to movements. He was targeted by US sanctions after the Treasury Department said the company had recruited former soldiers to join the separatists fighting in Ukraine.

More details about those killed in the strikes began to emerge in the following days.

When pressed on why the US considered the communication a success when it did not prevent the pro-government force attack, Mattis told reporters on Thursday, "You can't ask Russian Federation to deconflict something they don't control".

It's not clear who was paying the soldiers of fortune, whether it was Russian Federation directly, its allies in the war, Syria and Iran, or a third party.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, wouldn't comment on the reports either, saying they needed to be verified.

Their target was a base of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which came under artillery fire.

"This is a big scandal and a reason for an acute global crisis", said Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat and lawmaker who's now an independent political analyst.

But beyond Russia's official military engagement in Syria backing the regime, an unknown number of Russian mercenaries are fighting as part of Assad's army. "I advise you to contact the defence ministry".

"I don't have any reporting that some non-Russian Federation soldiers, but Russian contractors were among the casualties", he told reporters.

"The call for an immediate cessation of hostilities ... has gone unanswered", al-Za'tari said. USA and Russian military officials have maintained daily contact to avoid collisions between their forces.

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.

The rift deepened after Turkey launched an operation targeting the YPG in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria on January 20, despite calls by the USA for restraint. The soldiers were reportedly mercenaries fighting for the Assad regime in Syria who attacked a USA held refinery/base. In recent days, rumors swirled online in Russian Federation that large numbers of those military contractors had perished under American fire.

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