United States jet destroys Russian tank in 'self-defense' in Syria

14 February, 2018, 19:27 | Author: Diane Mills
  • Russian army servicemen at the Khmeimim Air Base in Syria

The U.S. -led coalition said it thwarted an "unprovoked attack" by pro-government fighters on a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) headquarters in Deir Ezzor province after midnight Wednesday.

The Pentagon said they were created to protect United States backed rebel fighters in Syria on Saturday against forces loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad - which are in turn supported by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The reports follow one from Reuters on Monday, where former associates of two of the Russians killed identified them to the news wire.

Four Russian nationals - and potentially dozens more - were killed in that assault, according to the New York Times, which cited Russian and Syrian officials.

Russian news media reported that they had confirmed the deaths of several other military contractors, as well. 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.

Russia's denied any official involvement.

"Now we hear completely different explanations from our USA partners regarding their presence in Syria - they say that this presence should be maintained not only until military tasks are accomplished, but also until there is a stable political process that should end in a transition of power which will be acceptable for all - meaning for the United States - which is regime change".

The U.S. counterattack involved the use of F-15 fighter jets, B-52 bombers, AC-130 gunships and Apache combat helicopters as well as MQ-9 Reaper drones.

Putin has emphasized that no uniformed Russian soldiers were killed in the strike.

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Bloomberg, however, reported that three Russian sources told them the attack was conducted by Russian mercenaries, and that as many as 200 Russian "contract soldiers" died in the attack.

The Syrian government has rejected United Nations-led efforts to form a committee to rewrite Syria's constitution, a central demand of the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue held in Sochi, Russia last month.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the incident, in which the death toll of private Russian soldiers may have been five times greater than the Russian Defense Ministry's official count of servicemen who have died in Syria.

U.S. strikes have reportedly killed at least 600 Russian mercenaries recently, according to reports.

"This is a big scandal and a reason for an acute worldwide crisis", said Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat and lawmaker who's now an independent political analyst.

Mr Yavlinsky said fierce mercenary forces "are trained at Russian army facilities" and "receive military awards in the Kremlin" in secret. "I advise you to contact the defence ministry". Some Russian lawmakers have called for legislation that would set rules fro private military contractors.

There's a refinery in Deir Ezzor that once funded Islamic State operations that's now "crucial" to Assad's plans to finance the reconstruction of Syria once a peace deal is finally reached, according to Yury Barmin, a Middle East analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow.

Averin said he believed that casualties among the Russians present amounted to more than "the typical Wagner loss of just a couple of people".

Private contractors - why are they in Syria?

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