Published: Sun, February 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

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

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

"According to preliminary data, as a result of the armed conflict, the causes of which are being clarified, and five people, presumably Russian citizens, could have been killed", Zakharova said in a briefing.

But as IS shrinks, the estimated 2,000 USA troops stationed in Syria find themselves caught in a highly unpredictable and shifting battlefield, as demonstrated by an unexpected attack by pro-Assad fighters on US -backed forces who were accompanied by USA advisers in Deir el-Zour.

A source who knows several of the fighters said the death toll was in excess of 80 men, while a Russian military doctor told Reuters that around 100 had been killed.

The wounded, who have been medically evacuated from Syria in the past few days, have been sent to four Russian military hospitals, according to five sources familiar with the matter.

"We don't have data about other Russians who could be in Syria".

The U.S. military has said it maintained contact with the Russian military in Syria before, during and after the February 7 clash. Better to express bewilderment and give Russian President Vladimir Putin a chance to back down and deny culpability, which he ended up doing despite the heavy casualties suffered by his mercenaries.

The Kremlin, on the other hand, is looking to avoid further escalating tensions with the United States and has sidestepped inquiries about the reported Russian casualties.

He said the wounded men had told him that the two units of Russian contractors involved in the battle near Deir al-Zor numbered 550 men.

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Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the USA was responsible for fueling thoughts of secession in northern Syria where they support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are spearheaded by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).

Along with the Russian military, which has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad's government since September 2015, thousands of Russians have also reportedly fought there as private contractors.

Russia's military aircraft at based in Syria.

Several hundred Russian mercenaries were involved in the battle over a Syrian oilfield near Deir Ezzor and came under attack from USA aircraft, possibly the first direct military confrontation between Americans and Russians since the Vietnam War.

The aim was to test if the US-led coalition would react.

Kislyak's comments came as top Russian and American officials exchanged barbs over Friday's indictment of 13 Russians accused of an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. troops deployed near the territory controlled by the Turkish army and its Islamist proxies continue to act as a de facto peace-keeping force at frontlines between their North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally and YPG-led SDF partners.

Around 600 fighters with artillery and tanks, most Russian-speakers, took part in the attempt to storm the base, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. 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.

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