US airstrikes reportedly killed Russian military
contractors in a massive battle in Syria earlier this
They are thought to be among the 100 or so dead after
It saw 500 pro-Syrian regime forces assaulted US-backed
forces in what the US called an “unprovoked attack.”
Russian contractors are not the same as regular Russian
soldiers, but US and Russian forces have operated close to each
other on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict for
US airstrikes in response to what it called an “unprovoked attack” reportedly
killed around 100 people in Syria earlier this month, and now
Russian media has reported that Russian military contractors may
be among the dead.
While the Kremlin has declined to comment, and no independent
party has yet verified the reports, US and Russian aligned forces
have fought on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict and in close
proximity for years.
If the US did kill Russian military contractors, it falls short
of killing official Russian servicemembers, which could escalate
into a larger war.
But the loss of Russians in Syria may still blacken the image of
the Kremlin’s intervention in the six-year civil war, which it
portrays as peace-keeping and inexpensive.
Russian media said Russian private contractors and pro-government
forces advanced on oil fields in the eastern Deir el-Zour
province and were targeted by the United States.
“Pro-regime forces initiated what appeared to be a
coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces east of the
Euphrates river,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana White
said in a statement, referring to the SDF, which the US has
trained, equipped, and backed for years.
The river acts as a border between the coalition and
Russian and Syrian forces, and the Pentagon also described the
SDF location as well-known, and that therefore the attack wasn’t
Syrian regime forces launched a
coordinated attack that included about 500 regime
troops, 122mm howitzers, tanks and
multiple launch rocket systems on the US-backed SDF headquarters
in Deir al-Zor province approximately five miles east
of the Euphrates River.
Regime forces operating Russian-made T-55 and
T-72 tanks fired 20-30 tank rounds
within 500 feet of the SDF base, where some US troops were
embedded, according to Pentagon
press secretary Dana W. White.
The US-led coalition responded with “AC-130 gunships,
F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships and Marine Corps
artillery,” according to Fox News
reporter Lucas Tomlinson.
The Pentagon said that the attack wounded only one SDF
soldier, and that the SDF and US-led coalition’s return fire
killed around 100 in self-defense.