USA jet destroys Russian-made tank in Syria

How many Russians did the USA kill in Syria

He urged in particular the three countries that have brokered localised ceasefires - Russian Federation and Iran, which back the regime, and Turkey, which supports the opposition - "to use their influence to help reduce violence". "There are forces that wish to torpedo the political process".

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Thursday that five Russian citizens were killed by a US strike in Syria on February 7, the first government confirmation from Moscow or Washington of Russian nationals being killed by USA military action on the complicated Syrian battlefield.

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, head of Air Forces Central Command, acknowledged that the battlespace in Syria is becoming increasingly contested as more operators move into the area, making response decisions ever more complicated.

United States officials added that the Russian government had lodged no complaint about its citizens being killed.

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. Some of the wounded fighters are brought to the hospitals of the Russian Defense Ministry, Bloomberg says.

The U.S. struck back with a massive round of airstrikes last week after coming under attack by a battalion-sized pro-Assad unit that many believed contained Russian mercenary contractors; national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reports from the Pentagon. They were identified as Vladimir Loginov, an ethnic Cossack from Russia's western Kaliningrad region, and Kirill Ananyev, a radical nationalist from Moscow.

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The Pentagon has repeatedly claimed the strike, which reportedly killed an unknown number of fighters loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, was carried out in self-defense, in response to massed Syrian government-backed troops and paramilitary forces advancing on USA -backed militias.

"We fully support Israel's right to defend themselves, particularly against threats to their territory and their people", Harrigian said.

Russian military expert Viktor Murakhovsky told the daily Kommersant: "For the Arab Republic, these are serious resources..."

An unknown number of private military contractors have also died.

The military contractors are well-armed and have been equipped with armored vehicles, tanks, and rocket artillery. Utkin is a former Russian GRU military intelligence operative.

Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat and lawmaker, warned the reported presence of Russian fighters "is a big scandal and a reason for an acute global crisis".

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"... We rely upon our folks who are on the ground to make that decision, primarily the ground force commander", Harrigian told reporters from the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, during a video teleconference briefing. Who the hostiles were is sort of academic to the incident.

The Russian government denies any official involvement in the incident. Already Grigory Yavlinsky, a veteran liberal politician who is running for president in elections next month, has called on Putin to disclose how many Russians had been killed in Syria and in what circumstances.

The Syrian government denounced the USA firestorm as a "massacre" and a "war crime", insisting that its fighters had been targeting remnants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The combined forces are deployed near Latakia and Homs and Wagner fighters were key elements of the pro-Syrian forces that invaded Palmyra in the spring of 2016. The other "irregulars" are mercenaries brought to Syria by Iran and run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Division. More than 340,000 people have been killed in the fighting and millions have been displaced.

About 60 percent of the mercenaries are non-Slavs, including some 200 Serbians. Several Russians died in Deir Ezzor that day, according to groups representing them.

The incident reportedly took place in the Deir ez-Zor province, on the eastern banks of the Euphrates river, which is now held by Kurdish forces working alongside USA coalition forces, ostensibly to fight against Islamic State.

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