Russians killed in clash with US-led forces in Syria, say associates

Russians killed in clash with US-led forces in Syria, say associates

The Pentagon says it is in constant contact with Russian forces on the ground as part of an existing de-confliction agreement that had been agreed between Washington and Moscow.

A Syrian military officer and the US each have said that about 100 Syrian soldiers were killed in the fighting on February 7 and 8, but news about Russian casualties has dribbled out only slowly, through Russian news organizations and social media.

The Conflict Intelligence Team, an organization that monitors social networks for information about Russians in Syria, said at least three other Russians also died on February 7 in Deir Ezzor, AFP reported.

Roughly 1,500 Syrians participated in the Sochi congress as representatives of various Syrian civil society groups representing different ethnic, religious and tribal groups, political forces, and external and internal opposition, including the armed resistance, made their positions known. However, continued USA support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, Washington's primary partner in the fight against ISIS, has strained ties between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

Initially, the Syrian opposition refused to participate in the Sochi talks opting instead to further the United Nations -led Geneva talks.

"Either we will improve ties or these ties will totally break down", he said ahead of a visit by USA secretary of state Rex Tillerson later this week, adding that the USA needs to take concrete steps to regain Turkey's trust.

On Jan. 30 participants at the Congress agreed to set up a committee to rewrite the Syrian constitution in Geneva and to hold democratic elections in Syria.

It is very hard to estimate the number of Russians working as military contractors in Syria and the number who are killed.

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"We only handle the data that concerns Russian forces servicemen", Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov told reporters.

According to reports from the Department of Defense, a Russian-made T-72 Main Battle Tank was destroyed by a drone strike after it attempted to engage Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the coalition advisors working alongside them in Syria on Saturday, one week after a large scales engagement between pro-Assad and SDF troops forces in the region. However, he casts doubts on the reports, noting that the whole column, which was alleged bombed out in the USA attack, counted "a bit more than 500 people".

What happened in the USA strikes?

The Pentagon earlier in the day declined to identify the 100 soldiers it said were killed by United States air strikes.

The Russian Defence Ministry has said that none of its soldiers were in the area and suggested that pro-Syrian government fighters may have failed to coordinate their actions with the Russian military.

Leader of the Cossack forces in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave Maksim Buga put the number of people killed at "dozens", while speaking to Reuters. It's also the most visible manifestation of American-on-Russian violence, even if the erstwhile Cold War adversaries were not technically engaged against each other.

While Russia's Defense Ministry didn't mention mercenaries in its statement, it did say 25 "Syrian" fighters were injured, without elaborating.

Without mentioning the USA strike, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted Tuesday that "Americans have taken unsafe unilateral steps". Putin and Trump spoke by phone on Monday, but reportedly did not discuss the Syria incident.

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