Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

'Russians killed in U.S. airstrikes in eastern Syria'

Mueller charges Russian nationals for meddling in US election Modal Trigger Getty Images
Charlie Simmons | 14 February, 2018, 19:28

The Pentagon has said its air strikes in Deir al-Zor last week targeted Syrian government troops that had attacked a base housing USA and Syrian opposition forces, killing about 100 of the attackers.

For more than three hours, American F-15E attack jets, B-52 strategic bombers, AC-130 gunships, Apache attack helicopters and Reaper drones fired on the attacking force, destroying an unspecified number of personnel, artillery guns and battle tanks, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of us air forces in the Middle East, said Tuesday.

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

On Tuesday, associates of two Russian fighters confirmed to the BBC that they were killed on 7 February.

The Sochi congress was convened and organized by the Russian government, who have urged the worldwide community to avoid direct military or other interference in Syria's seven-year-long civil war. 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.

"I can't give you anything on that, we have not received that word at Central Command or the Pentagon", he said. According to United States officials, a force of some 500 crossed the Euphrates River near Deir Ezzor, along with tanks, missile launchers and artillery.

Russian Federation also denies having personnel in the area.

It also noted pro-government forces that advanced toward the area under control of the US-supported forces had failed to coordinate their action with the Russian military in Syria.

In footage released by the Department of Defense on Tuesday, the T-72 can be seen sitting stationary and appears to fire a round from its 125mm main gun just before being hit by the USA air strike that destroyed the vehicle.

Top Photo | Russian soldiers walk outside a hospital in Deir el-Zor, Syria, Sept. 15, 2017. "The fact is that someone made a decision to attack us, and the Russians said that it is not about them".

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.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told media that Moscow has "no information about the deaths of any Russian mercenaries in Syria", adding that they only keep track of "Russian forces servicemen", and not other Russians who "could be in Syria".

Russian media have reported that, in addition to Russian forces deployed to Syria, thousands of Russians have also fought there as private contractors, most serving with the Wagner Group.

But analysts believe Russian Federation is using so-called private security firms to avoid deaths among its conscript army which could prove unpopular with its citizens - especially in the year of its presidential election.

However, Russian law forbids the hiring of mercenaries or working as one.

The officials said the US was puzzled because proper procedures had been followed - American forces used the deconfliction line to get Russia's go-ahead to defend coalition forces against the attackers.

"If Russians are among those who were killed, this would mark the first time a United States air strike has killed Russians in Syria", CBS News' David Martin reported.

Russian mercenaries have been reported in Syria before.

Moscow launched a military operation in Syria in support of President Assad on 30 September 2015.

"The state must be directly involved in issues related to the life and health of our citizens", he said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

An unknown number of private military contractors have also died.

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