'Mad development': USA reportedly wiped out scores of Russian fighters in Syria

'Mad development': USA reportedly wiped out scores of Russian fighters in Syria

'Mad development': USA reportedly wiped out scores of Russian fighters in Syria

According to Harrigian, the pro-Assad forces initiated the attack by firing artillery and tanks rounds at SDF positions.

"I also think it is essential to account publicly on interactions with the United States, since the danger of an accidental or intentional direct military engagement between Russian Federation and the United States is growing", Yavlinsky said in a statement.

A U.S. drone destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank operated by pro-Assad regime forces in eastern Syria's Deir el-Zor district on Saturday, U.S. military officials said.

"If Russians are among those who were killed, this would mark the first time a USA air strike has killed Russians in Syria", CBS News' David Martin reported. As a result, as many as 200 members of that battalion-sized unit were killed in US -led air and artillery strikes.

Mevlut Cavusoglu also told reporters in Istanbul that ties between Turkey and the US are at a "very critical stage", the Associated Press said.

Syrian state media have reported that the strikes left dozens killed, accusing the U.S. of a "brutal massacre". "More than 200 is the current estimate, we can not know the exact number yet, but a lot of them were Russian", he said in a telephone interview.

"Of course it's bad when Russians die from American weapons and we can't say it will have a good impact on our relations", said Vitaly Naumkin, a senior adviser to the Russian government on Syria.

If the US did kill Russian military contractors, it falls short of killing official Russian service members, which could escalate into a larger war.

In its statement about the attack, Russia's Defense Ministry seemed to refer to the refinery, accusing the USA of using its "illegal presence" in Syria as an excuse to "seize economic assets" instead of fighting terrorists.

"We only handle the data that concerns Russian forces servicemen", Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said at a news briefing Tuesday. He warned against relying on "distorted information" in media reports, some of which cited unconfirmed claims that overall casualties could have been as high as 200 and Russians could have accounted for the bulk of them.

Russian media reports said 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 United States forces last week.

But it was unclear why pro-government forces there advanced on an oil factory held by US -backed fighters despite the obvious risks of facing a devastating USA counterattack.

The deadly fight began about 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line late on February 7, when adversaries fired rounds and advanced in a "battalion-sized dismounted formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars", Veale said.

The Kremlin and the Russian Defence Ministry have refused to comment on media reports on Russian private contractors in Syria.

"In general and especially lately, we have been having a lot of questions to the actions of the United States in Syria".

Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg businessman dubbed "Putin's chef" because his restaurants and catering businesses once hosted the Kremlin leader's dinners with foreign dignitaries, is also on the US sanctions list. Putin and Trump spoke by phone on Monday, but reportedly did not discuss the Syria incident. Russian nationals were suspected of being part of the attack, but no casualties were reported, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he did not think there were any Russian casualties.

An unknown number of private military contractors have also died.

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