The Pentagon says a counterattack aimed at defending USA forces in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province a week ago went on for more than three hours and involved B-52 strategic bombers, AC-130 gunships, F-15E attack planes, Apache attack helicopters and Reaper drones.
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 USA air forces in the Middle East, said Tuesday.
The incident came three days after the US-led coalition killed more than 100 forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after shelling and using tanks to fire at the SDF and coalition advisors.
Vladimir Loginov, a 52-year-old Cossack from Russia's western Kaliningrad exclave "died in an unequal battle in the area of Syria's Deir Ezzor", the Baltic Cossack Union in Kaliningrad said in a statement, according to AFP. 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.
A USA official put the death toll at 100, with 200 to 300 injured, but was unable to say how many were Russian.
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Washington at the time said it was not ruling out the possibility that Russian contractors could have been among the attacking force. It also quoted Alexander Averin, the leader of extreme leftist group Another Russia, saying that one of its activists, Kirill Ananyev, was killed by the US strike near Khusham, where the USA said its counterattack occurred.
They also come weeks ahead of Russia's March 18 presidential election. "Russian officials assured coalition officials they would not engage coalition forces in the vicinity".
For the most part, the US-led coalition has managed to skirt the edges of Syria's civil war by staying focused on the Islamic State group.
There's no "specific detailed information" on what happened and while there may be Russian citizens in Syria, "they don't belong to the Russian armed forces", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. The Russian deaths in Syria at the hands of the U.S. military would be highly embarrassing for both Moscow and Washington and could further damage Russia-U.S. relations. Putin is widely expected to secure a fourth term in the controlled political environment, but analysts say he wants high turnout and a convincing victory to bolster his mandate as he heads into what may his last term.
Mr Yavlinsky said fierce mercenary forces "are trained at Russian army facilities" and "receive military awards in the Kremlin" in secret.
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The report of Russian mercenaries being killed by US-backed forces is just the latest scuffle in Syria between various countries and regional actors. "I advise you to contact the defence ministry".
U.S. officials added that the Russian government had lodged no complaint about its citizens being killed. "It is notable that the posts about their deaths emerged rather quickly - relatives and colleagues often learn of Russian mercenaries' deaths weeks or even months after the fact", the group said in a post.
It remains unknown who was paying the Russian fighters, whether it was Russia itself, Syria, or Iran. Putin and Trump spoke by phone on Monday, but reportedly did not discuss the Syria incident. Moscow helped turn the tide of the conflict in his favor by launching a campaign of air strikes in 2015 and stepping up its military presence on the ground.
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