Don't be fooled: Russia attacked US troops in Syria

Marsha Scott
February 18, 2018

Russian officials said five citizens may have been killed but they had no relation to Russia's armed forces.

Until Thursday, both Russian and US officials said they had no information on Russian casualties in the February 7 clash, which came when pro-Syrian government forces attacked positions of the USA -backed Syrian Kurdish fighters in Syria's oil-rich eastern province of Deir el-Zour and faced a ferocious US counterattack.

The mother of a Russian man who is believed to working as a military contractor in Syria said on Friday the Kremlin had abandoned her son and those fighting alongside him.

The incident marks the first time Russians and Americans have become directly engaged in combat in Syria - a scenario Moscow and Washington have anxiously sought to avoid.

Farkhanur Gavrilova, mother of Ruslan Gavrilov who is reported to have killed in Syria, looks on while speaking to the Associated Press in the village of Kedrovoye, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018.

In 2014, two Russian men, Vadim Gusev and Yevgeny Sidorov, were sentenced to three years in prison after they recruited over 200 former military soldiers to an outfit called the Slavonic Corps for a trip to Syria's Deir Ezzor.

While US officials have refused to disclose the nationality of the attackers, various reports indicated a death toll of up to several hundred Russians from the strike.

The Russian defense ministry did not respond to questions from Reuters about casualties in Syria.

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The coalition claimed that it carried out airstrikes against "Syrian pro-regime forces" that launched an "unprovoked attack" on Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces' headquarters and killed an estimated 100 militiamen.

United States special forces were accompanying the SDF forces that came under attack, officials in Washington said.

Russia on Thursday finally recognised that five Russian citizens - not officially affiliated with the Russian military - were likely killed in the strikes in eastern Syria. The Pentagon said earlier this week it doesn't know the number of enemy force casualties at this time.

Nurettin Canikli also says in comments televised live from Brussels on Thursday that he told U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, that U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish militia, known as YPG, has helped Kurdish rebels in Turkey "to grow and strengthen", posing an increasingly "existential" threat to Turkey.

An anonymous source told Reuters that Bloomberg's report that 300 Russians died was "broadly correct". The Russian military said it had no troops in the area.

The Russian-led troops reportedly sought to find out how the USA would react to the encroachment into what should be a neutral zone. "Russian officials assured coalition officials they would not engage coalition forces in the vicinity".

Mercenaries not directly affiliated with the Russian military may be convenient for Moscow's business interests in Syria while assuring deniability of government involvement. The US warned Russian Federation of the attack, but it's unclear if Russia's military passed on notice to the troops on the ground.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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