US Forces Have Reportedly Killed Dozens Of Contract Russian Fighters In Syria

US Forces Have Reportedly Killed Dozens Of Contract Russian Fighters In Syria

Separately, the U.S.is supporting a group of Syrian Kurds and Arabs, dubbed the Syrian Democratic Forces, fighting the Islamic State.

The Russian military campaign, launched in September 2015 in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, helping to turn around the multi-front war.

Vitaly Naumkin, a leading expert on the Middle East who has collaborated closely with Russia's Foreign Ministry on Syria, was somewhat more frank.

"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. While Putin announced during a visit to Syria last December that Russian armed forces had achieved victory over ISIS and were being withdrawn from the country, the fighting continues, and Russian military contractors are apparently heavily involved.

The Russians killed in the USA attack, whatever their actual number, are believed to have been military contractors employed by the Wagner Group, an outfit that has been described as Russia's equivalent to America's Blackwater. "But all that needs to be checked, in particular, of course, their citizenship, are they indeed citizens of Russian Federation, or of other countries", she said.

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De Mistura spoke at a Security Council meeting and was followed by US Ambassador Nikki Haley and Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who traded accusations about responsibility for the violence and for blocking the path to peace. Whether by accident or intention, such clashes risk plunging Washington and Moscow into a situation they studiously avoided even during some of the darkest hours of their relationship: their forces directly warring with each other.

Both sides are fighting against the last remnants of ISIS, which was mostly destroyed by the United States in the past year. And US and Russian military officials maintain daily contact to avoid battlefield mishaps.

The U.N. human rights office has cited reports that 277 people were killed and another 812 were injured in Syria between February 4 and February 9. The Syrian advance was rebuffed by an immediate and intense USA response, which included a three-hour assault by AC-130 Hercules gunships, F-15 strike fighters, F-22 stealth fighters, Apache helicopters and US Marine artillery.

President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that France will strike Syria if proven evidence emerges of chemical weapons being used against civilians, the BBC reported.

Russian media said Russian private contractors were part of pro-government forces that advanced on oil fields in the eastern Deir el-Zour province and were targeted by the United States.

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Bloomberg, citing two unnamed Russians, said more than 200 contract soldiers died in the attack. He added that "those steps look increasingly as part of efforts to create a quasi-state on a large part of Syrian territory — from the eastern bank of the Euphrates River all the way to the border with Iraq".

The Russian assault may have been a rogue operation, underscoring the complexity of a conflict that started as a domestic crackdown only to morph into a proxy war involving Islamic extremists, stateless Kurds and regional powers Iran, Turkey and now Israel.

"We detected and saw a tank that took a shot at us", Harrigan said.

The additional deaths come at a tenuous point for the Kremlin which has denied sanctioning the recent pro-Assad attack on the oilfields which resulted in Russian mercenary deaths from the American airstrike. Twitter is starting to report the names of the Russians killed in the attack, and the twittering is in the Russian language which means everyone in Russia knows.

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