Several Russians killed in USA airstrikes in Syria, friends say

US forces drive their armored vehicles near the northern Syrian village of Darbasiyah
US forces drive their armored vehicles near the northern Syrian village of Darbasiyah
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14 February, 2018

Vitaly Naumkin, a Russian government adviser on Syria, said: "No one wants to start a world war over a volunteer or a mercenary who wasn't sent by the state and was hit by Americans".

"I don't have any reporting that some non-Russian Federation soldiers, but Russian contractors were among the casualties", Mattis told reporters traveling with him in Europe.

"We don't have information about other Russians who might be in Syria".

Officials in both Moscow and Washington remained coy about the deaths, which would be an embarrassment for both countries if it turns out that Russian fighters were part of a unit that attacked a military force with American troops.

On Saturday, Israeli fighters bombed Syrian and Iranian military forces after an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace.

But it comes after news hundreds of Russian mercenaries were reportedly killed by US-backed forces last week. The Russians later called their us counterparts to ask if the strikes had ended so that the attacking force could recover the dead and wounded, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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. The mercenaries were said to be mostly Russian nationals fighting under contract for Assad.

While the Kremlin has declined to comment, and no independent party has yet verified the reports, US and Russian aligned forces have fought on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict and in close proximity for years.

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U.S. strikes have reportedly killed at least 600 Russian mercenaries recently, according to reports.

The coalition had said that their forces had come under an "unprovoked attack" in territory held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in eastern Deir Ezzor province, from what it said were "pro regime" forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Last week's offensive began about 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of the Euphrates River deconfliction line late February 7, when pro-Assad forces fired rounds and advanced in a "battalion-sized formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars", Colonel Thomas F. Veale, a spokesman for the USA military, said in a statement. I can't give you anything on that.

The attack took place in the early hours of Thursday when 300-500 pro-Assad troops advanced with tanks and artillery on the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) base. "We have not received that word at Central Command or the Pentagon".

Ionov said he was speaking out because he wanted any Russians who were killed to be officially recognized for their sacrifice.

Russia's military has said it had nothing to do with the attack and the US accepted the claim.

As the main global backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Russian Federation has committed itself to aiding in the country's reconstruction. They are believed to be dead, according to Russian officials.

While the US has used private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan for years, Russian law forbids the hiring of mercenaries or working as one even though Russia has used proxies in eastern Ukraine, where it has backed pro-Moscow separatists since 2014. Reports in Russian media have said Wagner - a shadowy organization known as Russia's answer to Blackwater - was hired by Assad or his allies to guard Syrian energy assets in exchange for oil concessions.


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