'At least six Russian nationals, and potentially dozens more, are believed to have been killed in fighting between pro-government forces and the US-led coalition in Syria - in one of the most significant clashes between the two nations since the Cold War.
The coalition had said that their forces had come under an “unprovoked attack” in territory held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in eastern Deir Ezzor province, from what it said were “pro regime” forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. More than 100 fighters said to have been killed out of an attacking force of around 500 during the clashes on 7/8 February. Colonel Thomas F Veale, a US military spokesman said that the coalition forces had acted in “self defence” and “targeted the aggressors with a combination of air and artillery strikes”.
Then, on Saturday, a US military drone aircraft destroyed a Russian-made T-72 tank near the area around Al Tabiyeh. The US military said it destroyed the tank after it moved within firing range of US-backed forces.
The coalition would not confirm the death toll or a Russian presence when asked about the 7/8 February attack by The Independent, but reports have surfaced in Russia that soldiers from the country had come under fire.
Most, if not all of the soldiers were affiliated to the pseudo-mercenary Wagner military group. This group, named after the retired Russian officer that leads it, is linked to Russian military and security forces and has operated as an arms-length formation in both eastern Ukraine - although Russia has denied direct military involvement in the conflict there - and Syria.'
Read more: US-led forces 'kill dozens of Russians' with Syria air strikes in first such deadly clash between the two powers
Neither Kremlin nor Pentagon confirm reports of alleged Russian losses to US strike in Syria
'The Kremlin and the Pentagon do not have any information on the alleged deaths of Russians during a US attack in Syria, respective officials have told journalists. Reports of the supposed fatalities have emerged on social media.
The reports attribute the alleged casualties to a recent US airstrike and put the figures between 100 and over 600.
“We urge not to use media reports as a primary source in that case. Let’s understand that there are a lot of our compatriots in many countries worldwide, and it’s quite difficult to have detailed information. All the media reports, though, need to be verified.”
“We recommend in that case to reach out to the Defense Ministry, since here we’re dealing with information published in media. We can only operate data on the servicemen of Russian Armed Forces, who take part in the operation of the Russian Airspace forces supporting the Syrian Army. We don’t have information on any other Russians who might be in Syria,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis also said he has no information that Russian army servicemen were among the casualties following the US airstrike.'
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