Watch that massive battle with Russian mercenaries in Syria

Aaron Brown
February 18, 2018

Around 300 men working for a Kremlin-linked private military contractor were killed or injured in Syria last week, sources told Reuters, indicating Russian Federation is more deeply involved in Syria's war than it has previously said.

Russian officials said five citizens may have been killed but they had no relation to Russia's armed forces.

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.

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

Russian officials deny they deploy private military contractors in Syria, saying Moscow's only military presence is a campaign of air strikes, a naval base, military instructors training Syrian forces, and limited numbers of special forces troops.

"The Russians in many areas, including Ukraine, have claimed that their forces are not involved", said Mark Simakovsky, a former Pentagon official and now nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a New York-based think tank. He said the United States "doesn't want to be killing Russian citizens in Syria".

On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry admitted for the first time that five Russian citizens "could" have been killed in the clashes.Maria Zakharova, the ministry's spokeswoman, dismissed reports of higher losses as "classic disinformation".

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.

Fontanka has tied Yevro Polis to the empire of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Saint-Petersburg businessman running the company Concord Catering which controls several restaurant businesses and has won many contracts from the Russian defence ministry. A Kremlin spokesman, asked about Russian casualties on Thursday, said he had nothing to add to previous statements.

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Bloomberg first reported this week that Russian military contractors took place in what the USA called an "unprovoked attack" on a well-known headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel cohort the U.S. has trained, equipped, and fought alongside for years.

Instead Russia said that they "do not possess detailed information that would enable us to draw conclusions", and that "It can not be ruled out that there may be citizens of the Russian Federation [fighting] in Syria".

The forces reportedly advanced and fired at a US-held position in Syria, and the US's counter-attack obliterated the forces.

Moscow acknowledged for the first time Thursday that five Russian nationals may have been killed in the USA -led airstrike in Syria last week but denied reports the loss of life among its citizens was significantly higher.

Bloomberg cited two of its Russian sources as saying that more than 200 mercenaries, majority Russians, were killed, and The New York Times cited a Syrian military officer as saying about 100 Russians were killed.

The Russian-led troops reportedly sought to find out how the USA would react to the encroachment into what should be a neutral zone. They are not connected to the armed forces of the Russian Federation, " Peskov said in a conference call with journalists. "That's to say, constant screams, shouts", Shabayev told Reuters.

"If our bill would be passed, everyone would know who is fighting where". "I don't have any reporting that some Russians, non-Russian Federation soldiers, but Russian contractors, were among the casualties".

"The warning was 20 minutes beforehand, in that time it was not feasible to turn the column around", said the source.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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