Coalition destroys Russian-made tank in Syria

Frederick Owens
February 14, 2018

If the high estimates of Russian casualties are confirmed, it would be the most lethal clash between U.S. and Russian citizens since the end of the cold war, and it comes at a time when proxy forces in Syria are increasingly coming into contact, as they compete for territory vacated by retreating Islamic State militants.

It was eventually revealed that Russian military contractors were mixed in with the Assad regime's allies in that attack, and a number of them were killed.

But American Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said they had no such information on casualties, and the Kremlin did not confirm any Russian deaths.

The Pentagon said they were created to protect U.S. 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.

"I'm sure the number of those confirmed dead is going to increase", said Alexander Ionov, a Russian anti-globalization activist who has fought in Syria and is well-connected among former fighters from eastern Ukraine.

Russian Federation does not rule out that the United States intends to stay in Syria for a long time, "if not forever", he went on.

Echoing the sentiment, the government in Damascus called the USA action "barbaric aggression" and a "war crime". With Islamic State, which once controlled large swaths of Syria, now largely defeated, rival powers and militias are fighting in various combinations to fill the vacuum.

It is feared if Moscow and Washington begin fighting each other directly in Syria, a major conflict could begin and spiral into World War 3.

Media reports said Russian private contractors were part of pro-Syrian government forces that attacked US -backed fighters in the Deir el-Zour province in eastern Syria on February 7 and faced a ferocious USA counterattack. "Russian officials assured coalition officials they would not engage coalition forces in the vicinity".

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Audio recordings emerged on WhatsApp, purporting to be calls between unidentified individuals describing an attack by Russian contractors that were thwarted by the SDF who got help from U.S. firepower after they "raised the American flag".

The other man killed was named as Kirill Ananiev, described as a radical Russian nationalist. However, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura joined Russia's, and Iran's attempts to mediate negotiations hoping they would revive Geneva's peace process.

"He wasn't an official military service member" and used to be a volunteer in Donbass, Averin said, adding that Ananyev is survived by his wife and children. "(...) You can't ask Russian Federation to prevent the conflict in the case when she is not in control, it could not be done", said Mattis.

Harrigian said he would "not speculate on the composition of the attacking force" or about whose command it was under. They said the deconfliction line was still operating and Russian Federation so far hadn't protested the decision to launch the air strikes. It was also said that the conflict sparked after local businessmen attempted to seize oil and gas fields controlled by United States allies.

On Saturday, Israeli fighters bombed Syrian and Iranian military forces after an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace.

He also suggested that contractors or employees of Russian private military companies have Hassama was not.

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

The general pressed the points that USA forces are focused on ISIS in Syria, they were not "looking for a fight", and the deadly strikes were ordered in self-defense.

A U.S. jet operating in Syria destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank near Al Tabiyeh, Syria, on Saturday, a Pentagon representative confirmed to Business Insider on Tuesday.

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