Sunday, 17 February, 2019

United States airstrikes kill scores of Russian mercenaries in Syria after 'unprovoked attack'

US-led coalition destroys Russian tank in Syria United States airstrikes kill scores of Russian mercenaries in Syria after 'unprovoked attack'
Melinda Barton | 16 February, 2018, 10:46

Macron's comments come after medics and rescue workers in Idlib province this month alleged that at least nine people suffered from breathing problems after a purported chlorine gas attack on the opposition stronghold.

At least six Russian mercenaries - and reportedly scores more - who were fighting on the side of Bashar al-Assad, died in the U.S. strikes, multiple reports from Russia suggest. Russian media reports suggest that Wagner, a private Russian military contractor, sent the soldiers to guard energy assets on behalf of Assad.

Zakharova wouldn't describe how the Russians died, saying the circumstances of the clash are still being clarified, but her statement amounted to official recognition that the victims were part of the force that advanced on positions of the USA -backed fighters.

The other man killed was named as Kirill Ananiev, described as a radical Russian nationalist.

"As a state, we are not bound by, nor have any relation with, any committee that is not Syrian formed, led and constituted", said Ayman Soussan, assistant to the Syrian foreign minister, at a press conference in Damascus, according to Reuters.

"Coalition officials maintained regular contact with Russian counterparts via established de-confliction lines to avoid misperceptions and miscalculations that could endanger each other's forces", the statement added.

What was never disputed is the fast-changing, often confusing nature of a battlefield in which forces of multiple countries are bumping up against one another, raising the prospect of violent collisions.

Troops from Russia, Turkey, and the United States are now on the ground in Syria, in addition to ISIS fighters and other factions, like the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. There are recordings from alleged telephone conversations with Russians who survived the United States attack. The US reportedly accepted the claim. For more than three hours, American F-15E attack planes, B-52 strategic bombers, AC-130 gunships, Apache attack helicopters and Reaper drones fired on the attacking ground force, which Harrigian said was advancing under covering fire from artillery, mortars, rockets and tank rounds.

Much about the attack and the associated casualties has been obscured in the fog of war.

"As the hostile forces turned west and retreated, we ceased fire".

"The Russians may have allowed the attack to take place simply to make it clear to Assad that you can't do things without coordination with Moscow", Yury Barmin, a Middle East analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, a research group set up by the Kremlin, told Bloomberg.

On February 7, the US-led coalition in Syria carried out several "defensive" strikes against Syrian forces in retaliation for "unprovoked" attacks on SDF forces, killing an estimated 100 pro-government fighters. For reasons that remain unclear, Syrian government troops and some Russian nationals appear to have attacked a coalition position, near Al Tabiyeh, Syria.

"We do not have a fight with [Syrian] pro-regime forces", Col. Dillon said.

One of the dead was named as Vladimir Loginov, a Cossack from Russia's Kaliningrad exclave.

Media outlets are quoting an unnamed Russian Federation military doctor, claiming that about 300 ChVK Wagner contractors were killed or wounded, with between 80 and 100 killed. Those claims couldn't be verified.