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14 Febrero 2018, 07:26 | Crisanna Felipe
Reports of Russian deaths underscore dangers of Syria's war
Russian media reportssaid Tuesday that the several Russians were helping the Syrian and Russian military in the drive against militants in the province of Dayr al-Zawr when they came under attack by the U.S. forces last week.
In that incident, US special operations forces and allied Syrian fighters came under attack by a group of 500 Assad regime-backed fighters equipped with tanks, artillery and mortars.
Even as the Kremlin denies any official link to them, scores of Russian mercenaries wounded in US strikes in Syria are being treated at Defense Ministry hospitals.
One of the dead was 51-year-old Vladimir Loginov.
The Sochi congress was convened and organized by the Russian government, who have urged the global community to avoid direct military or other interference in Syria's seven-year-long civil war.
But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other US officials said they had no such information on casualties, and the Kremlin did not confirm any Russian deaths.
He said: "This is a hostile force that was coming after our partners and coalition advisers so we are going to defend ourselves". "But we do not dismiss a certain contribution by the American coalition to this achievement", Lavrov said.
Lavrov also reiterated that Russian Federation remains in favor of Kurdish participation in the Syrian peace process.
Nevertheless, the incident serves as a grim reminder of the complexities of the multi-party (and multi-proxy) conflict in Syria, in which there's always a chance that rogue players' actions may end up dragging great powers into a direct conflict in spite of their continued deconfliction efforts.
The U.S. -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. In Moscow, officials said that none of them were Russian service members.
"We don't have information on any other Russians who might be in Syria", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. The contractors have been active in Syria since the Kremlin launched its intervention in September 2015, according to Russian news reports.
President Trump (L) with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
This incident is not the first time Russian mercenaries have been reported to be operating in Syria.
The Kremlin and the Russian Defence Ministry have refused to comment on media reports on Russian private contractors in Syria.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattiscalled the attack "perplexing". Prigozhin's assets include Evro Polis, an oil trading firm that reportedly has served as a front for Wagner's operations in Syria. The reports cited activists who said that at least four Russian citizens were killed in Syria on February 7.
Yury Barmin, a Middle East analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, a think tank set up by the Kremlin, said Russia supports Assad's efforts to reclaim the "crucial" eastern region of Deir Ezzor to help fund his national reconstruction and reconciliation plan, which the US opposes.
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.
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