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Russian families demand answers after soldiers killed

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Reports that Russian mercenaries were killed by US airstrikes while secretly fighting in Syria have been met by a stark silence from The Kremlin.

They are yet to name any of the Russian causalities and it is still unclear why they were there in the first place.

This has led to questions from the grieving victim’s families about why these details remain unanswered.    

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova would only concede that five Russian citizens may have been killed but the Russian government has declined to confirm the reports.

Kremlin lies: President Vladimir Putin is accused of covering-up his reliance on mercenary soldiers, pictured, to minimise the extent of regular army casualties in Syria

Kremlin lies: President Vladimir Putin is accused of covering-up his reliance on mercenary soldiers, pictured, to minimise the extent of regular army casualties in Syria

Kremlin lies: President Vladimir Putin is accused of covering-up his reliance on mercenary soldiers, pictured, to minimise the extent of regular army casualties in Syria

Farkhanur Gavrilova, mother of Ruslan Gavrilov who is reported to have killed in Syria

Farkhanur Gavrilova, mother of Ruslan Gavrilov who is reported to have killed in Syria

Farkhanur Gavrilova, mother of Ruslan Gavrilov who is reported to have killed in Syria

Dmitri Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, stated.on Friday: ‘We have no new information about this and we stated.everything we wanted to say on this matter.’

The group of soldiers had reportedly been told to take what was described as a vacant oil field in Syria, Valery Shebayev told CNN.

Ms Shebayev claims the following in incident as a ‘massacre’ which led to the death of ’20 to 30′ Russian citizens, Ruslan Leviev, an activist with the Conflict Intelligence Team in Moscow said.

Although the aim given to the Russian fighters is unexplained it is believed they were heading towards a valuable oil and gas field, Coneco, controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).  

For Russian mother Farkhanur Gavrilova, the blow came a week ago when an acquaintance called her to say that her son was killed in a US airstrike in Syria that pitted Russian and American combatants against each other for the first time in the Syrian war.

Gavrilova’s son, 37-year-old Ruslan Gavrilov, was one of seven men in this central Russian village of 2,300 who are believed to have joined a private military company called Wagner. 

The company reportedly was involved in a February 7 attack on US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria and suffered devastating losses in an American counterstrike.

On the morning of February 8, she said, her son’s colleague called to say he was told by an unidentified caller that Ruslan had died in the airstrike.

‘He was torn to pieces,’ the 67-year-old said, speaking Thursday in her sparsely furnished apartment. 

‘If he was alive – he is a plucky guy – he would have tried to call.’

Footage captures the moment a US fighter jet destroyed a Russian tank in Syria – after it emerged that hundreds of Russian mercenaries are secretly fighting in the country

Footage captures the moment a US fighter jet destroyed a Russian tank in Syria – after it emerged that hundreds of Russian mercenaries are secretly fighting in the country

Footage captures the moment a US fighter jet destroyed a Russian tank in Syria – after it emerged that hundreds of Russian mercenaries are secretly fighting in the country

Pro-regime forces began firing at a base held by SDF and the United States retaliated with airstrikes and artillery fire which lasted for three hours. 

It has been reported by CNN that US commanders attempted to contact their Russian counterparts to warn them but by the time they got through the counterattack was underway. 

It has previously emerged that hundreds of Russian mercenaries are believed to be fighting in Syria.       

A US jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 tank during a bombing raid designed to protect rebel fighters in Syria, reportedly killed hundreds of fighters, including a number of Russian mercenaries.

the United States jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 tank during a bombing raid designed to protect rebel fighters in Syria on Saturday

the United States jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 tank during a bombing raid designed to protect rebel fighters in Syria on Saturday

the United States jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 tank during a bombing raid designed to protect rebel fighters in Syria on Saturday

If that proves true it would be the biggest clash between American and Russian forces since the end of the Cold War – and represent an escalation of tensions between the world’s two most powerful armed forces who are engaged in a war by proxy in Syria. 

The tank was targeted near Al Tabiyeh in a bid to stop it firing towards a position held by American forces and their Syrian allies, a Pentagon spokesman said.

It happened days after the United States military stated.its anti-jihadist coalition had carried out strikes in ‘self-defense’ against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the same region, leaving an estimated more than 100 pro-regime personnel dead.

It comes after reports that more than 200 private Russian military contractors were killed in a failed attack on a base held by U.S. and Kurdish forces last week, Bloomberg reports. 

In recent weeks, more than 600 Russian mercenaries have reportedly been killed in Syria, many of them in airstrikes carried out by the U.S.-led coalition.  

Killed: Vladimir Loginov and Igor Kosoturov were both reportedly killed in Syria this month

Killed: Vladimir Loginov and Igor Kosoturov were both reportedly killed in Syria this month

Killed: Vladimir Loginov and Igor Kosoturov were both reportedly killed in Syria this month

Killed: Vladimir Loginov and Igor Kosoturov were both reportedly killed in Syria this month

Killed: Vladimir Loginov and Igor Kosoturov were both reportedly killed in Syria this month

Asked during a conference call with reporters if Putin raised the episode during Monday’s phone conversation with President Donald Trump, Peskov stated.the situation in Syria wasn’t discussed during the call.

The Kremin stated.it had no information about Russian mercenaries being killed in Syria, saying it only knew about Russian nationals who have been deployed there as members of the armed forces.

‘We don’t have information about other Russians who might be in Syria,’ Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

The denial comes despite the leader of one of the private armies of mercenaries being photographed meeting Putin and attending a ceremony in the Kremlin.

Russian mercenary soldier Alexey Ladygin, 26, from Ryazan, perished in Syria last week

Russian mercenary soldier Alexey Ladygin, 26, from Ryazan, perished in Syria last week

Russian mercenary soldier Alexey Ladygin, 26, from Ryazan, perished in Syria last week

Opposition politician Grigory Yavlinsky, who is standing against Putin in next month’s presidential election, has called on him to come clean on his use of mercenaries to prop up Syrian president Bashar-al-Assad – and to tell the Russian people the scale of the losses.

Mr Yavlinsky claims mercenary forces ‘are trained at Russian army facilities’ and ‘receive military awards in the Kremlin’ in secret, he alleged.

‘They are, in essence, special troops of the Russian army – despite the fact that mercenaries and private military companies are officially banned in Russia’.

‘Officially denying deaths of armed Russian citizens that fight in Syria by the leadership of Russia is absolutely unacceptable,’ he said.

Dead: Stanislav Matveyev, 38, was also reported killed in Syria

Dead: Stanislav Matveyev, 38, was also reported killed in Syria

Dead: Stanislav Matveyev, 38, was also reported killed in Syria

‘I call on Russian president Vladimir Putin to clarify this. If there were mass deaths of Russian citizens, then relevant officials including Commander-in-Chief of Russian Armed Forces (Putin), must announce it to the country and determine who is responsible.’

The Kremlin has consistently refused to talk about the deployment of mercenaries – which is illegal in Russia – to Syria and rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

As stated by Igor Strelkov, a former intelligence officer who was a commander of pro-Putin clandestine military operations in Ukraine, stated.the number of Russians killed in bloody clashes recently could be as high as 600.

‘It is clear that there are hundreds of dead and injured, several hundreds,’ he said.

‘But the latest figure looks too extreme, it’s allegedly over 600.’

He claimed he was told by Russian private army sources in Syria that by Saturday, 644 had been killed, but he could not verify the figure.

Pictures of a handful of the mercenaries who perished in Syria in the past week have emerged.

One was Cossack fighter Vladimir Loginov, 51, from Kaliningrad, a father of two who formerly worked for the Russian Interior Ministry, who died in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on February 7.

He fell ‘heroically defending our Motherland in its far reaches from crazy savages’, according to the Baltic Cossack Union in Kaliningrad.

Accusations: Putin has been accused by opposition politician Grigory Yavlinsky, pictured together, of lying about the government's ties to the mercenary armies

Accusations: Putin has been accused by opposition politician Grigory Yavlinsky, pictured together, of lying about the government's ties to the mercenary armies

Accusations: Putin has been accused by opposition politician Grigory Yavlinsky, pictured together, of lying about the government’s ties to the mercenary armies

Other mercenaries killed were Stanislav Matveyev, 38, and Igor Kosoturov, 45, from Asbest, Alexey Ladygin, 26, from Ryazan and Kirill Ananyev, 33, also with the same private military unit.

Several of the mercenaries killed were reportedly employed by a shadowy private army called Wagner, which has close ties to the Russian defence ministry and whose leader has met Putin.

Wagner – or Vagner – is the nickname of an ex-Russian special forces officer called Dmitry Utkin, who runs the private army.

US JET DESTROYS RUSSIAN-MADE TANK IN SYRIA

A US jet has destroyed a Russian-made T-72 tank during a bombing raid designed to protect rebel fighters in Syria, it has emerged.

The tank was targeted near Al Tabiyeh on Saturday in a bid to stop it firing towards a position held by American forces and their Syrian allies, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

The tank had been ‘maneuvering with coordinated indirect fire’ on a position held by Syrian Democratic Forces – a US backed rebel movement that has been battling ISIS.

While America has been training and equipping SDF rebels during the brutal civil war in Syria, Russia has been backing forces loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad operating nearby.

Utkin is reported to be the ex-commander of the famous Pskov special forces brigade and has been photographed with other Wagner army chiefs and Putin at a Kremlin ceremony. Other leaders of Wagner include decorated former senior Russian army personnel.

Such ‘deniable’ forces enabled Russia to deploy in Crimea, other areas of Ukraine and Syria, while denying its soldiers were on the ground.

The funding for the secret army is believed to come from Russia’s military budget.

A military analyst said: ‘Russia is putting these mercenary forces in harm’s way on the ground, while the regular army and Air Force are not at the frontline.

Russian media stated.the Russian private contractors were part of pro-government forces that advanced on oil fields in the eastern Deir el-Zour province and were targeted by the United States.

The reports cited activists who confirmed that at least four Russian citizens were killed in Syria last Wednesday.

The U.S. military stated.last week it launched air and artillery strikes on Syrian government-backed troops after some 300 attackers launched what appeared to be a coordinated assault on Syrian opposition forces accompanied by U.S. advisers in the province of Deir el-Zour.

It stated.it was in regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the attack, and Russian officials assured coalition officials they would not strike coalition forces.

Mercenary leader: Several of the mercenaries killed were reportedly employed by a shadowy private army called Wagner, whose leader, Dmitry Utkin, pictured, has met Putin

Mercenary leader: Several of the mercenaries killed were reportedly employed by a shadowy private army called Wagner, whose leader, Dmitry Utkin, pictured, has met Putin

Mercenary leader: Several of the mercenaries killed were reportedly employed by a shadowy private army called Wagner, whose leader, Dmitry Utkin, pictured, has met Putin

It stated.the U.S. strikes, which reportedly killed about 100 of the attackers, were in self-defense.

The Russian Defense Ministry stated.25 Syrian volunteers were wounded in the U.S. strike and insisted that its troops weren’t involved in Wednesday’s incident.

It stated.that pro-government forces that advanced toward the area under control of the U.S.-supported forces had failed to coordinate their action with the Russian military in Syria.

Making friends: Utkin, far right, is photographed with other Wagner army chiefs and Putin at a Kremlin ceremony

Making friends: Utkin, far right, is photographed with other Wagner army chiefs and Putin at a Kremlin ceremony

Making friends: Utkin, far right, is photographed with other Wagner army chiefs and Putin at a Kremlin ceremony

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday dismissed any suggestion that Russia had any control over the attacking force, whose nationalities, motives and makeup he could not identify.

The U.S. strike came as U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces were vying for control of the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province with Russian-backed Syrian troops that are reinforced by Iranian-supported militias.

The Russian and the U.S. militaries have maintained regular communications to avoid collisions on the chaotic Syrian battlefield.

If the death of Russian private contractors is confirmed, it could further strain ties between the two countries that have plummeted to the lowest levels since the Cold War over the Ukrainian conflict, the war in Syria and the alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Without mentioning the U.S. strike, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted on Tuesday that ‘Americans have taken dangerous unilateral steps.’

‘Those steps look increasingly as part of efforts to create a quasi-state on a large part of Syrian territory – from the eastern bank of the Euphrates River all the way to the border with Iraq,’ he said.

The state Tass news agency on Tuesday cited Natalya Krylova, a municipal lawmaker in the town of Asbestos in the Urals, as saying local residents Igor Kosoturov and Stanislav Matveyev were killed in Syria Wednesday.

The Interfax news agency stated.that the Cossack group in the westernmost Kalningrad region stated.a member named Vladimir Loginov was killed in combat in the province of Deir el-Zour.

Putin's friend: Dmitry 'Wagner' Utkin, circled, is pictured at the reception dinner at the ceremony in Kremlin

Putin's friend: Dmitry 'Wagner' Utkin, circled, is pictured at the reception dinner at the ceremony in Kremlin

Putin’s friend: Dmitry ‘Wagner’ Utkin, circled, is pictured at the reception dinner at the ceremony in Kremlin

It also quoted Alexander Averin, leader of extreme leftist group Another Russia, as saying that one of its activists, Kirill Ananyev, was killed by the U.S. strike near Khusham.

Liberal politician Grigory Yavlinsky, who is running for president in Russia’s March 18 presidential election, urged Putin to come into the open regarding the deaths of Russians in Syria, saying that official silence on the subject was ‘unacceptable.’

‘If many Russian citizens were killed, officials, including the commander-in-chief, must tell the nation about it and determine who is responsible for that,’ he said.

Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since September 2015, helping Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government seize large chunks of territory and turn the tide of war into its favor.

Russian media have reported that in addition to Russian servicemen deployed to Syria, thousands of Russians also fought there as private contractors, allowing the Kremlin to keep the official death toll from its campaign in Syria low and avoid the negative public response.

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

The Russian mother who lost her son to a US airstrike in Syria

For Russian mother Farkhanur Gavrilova, the blow came a week ago when an acquaintance called her to say that her son was killed in a US airstrike in Syria that pitted Russian and U.S. combatants against each other for the first time in the Syrian war.

Gavrilova’s son, 37-year-old Ruslan Gavrilov, was one of seven men in this central Russian village of 2,300 who are believed to have joined a private military company called Wagner. 

The company reportedly was involved in a Feb. 7 attack on US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria and suffered devastating losses in an American counterstrike.

On the morning of February 8, she said, her son’s colleague called to say he was told by an unidentified caller that Ruslan had died in the airstrike.

‘He was torn to pieces,’ the 67-year-old said, speaking Thursday in her sparsely furnished apartment. 

‘If he was alive – he is a plucky guy – he would have tried to call.’

For Russian mother Farkhanur Gavrilova (pictured), the blow came a week ago when an acquaintance called her to say that her son was killed in a US airstrike in Syria that pitted Russian and U.S. combatants against each other for the first time in the Syrian war

For Russian mother Farkhanur Gavrilova (pictured), the blow came a week ago when an acquaintance called her to say that her son was killed in a US airstrike in Syria that pitted Russian and U.S. combatants against each other for the first time in the Syrian war

For Russian mother Farkhanur Gavrilova (pictured), the blow came a week ago when an acquaintance called her to say that her son was killed in a US airstrike in Syria that pitted Russian and U.S. combatants against each other for the first time in the Syrian war

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday for the first time acknowledged that five Russians had been killed by the United States strike in Syria, emphasizing they weren’t on active military duty. 

Previously, both Russian and US officials stated.they had no information on Russian casualties in the clash.

Russian forces are supporting the Syrian government in the fight against opposition groups, some of which are backed by the United States, and elements of both sides are fighting the last remnants of the Islamic State group in Syria. 

Moscow and Washington long have feared a collision between Russian and US combatants in Syria and sought to prevent it by maintaining a regular communications link between the militaries.

Observers blame the February 7 clash on a lack of coordination between the Russian military and private military contractors in Syria.

Along with the Russian military, thousands of Russians have also reportedly fought in Syria as private contractors. 

That allows the Kremlin to keep the official death toll from its Syrian military campaign low, helping to avoid negative publicity as President Vladimir Putin runs for re-election in Russia’s March 18 presidential vote.

Gavrilova stated.she had tried to dissuade her son, who was remodeling apartments, from going to Syria but he was lured by a promise of a high pay.

‘Why did they leave? Because of poverty, to make money,’ Gavrilova said.

Russian law forbids the hiring of mercenaries or working as one.

Putin declared victory in Syria on a visit to a Russian military base there in December, and ordered a partial pullout of troops. 

Many Russian politicians and commentators long have assailed the Kremlin for failing to acknowledge the Russian contractors’ presence in Syria.

A push for oil assets appears to have been the top mission for Russian private contractors in Syria. 

Last year, an obtained copy emerged of a contract between a Russian company and the Syrian government that would give the Russians a 25 percent cut of the proceeds from the oil fields they capture and guard.

Unlike many other military contractors with previous experience of fighting alongside Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, Gavrilova’s son hadn’t even done his military service.

‘I thought they went there to do some odd jobs,’ Gavrilova said. ‘They did not even undergo medical tests. He called me from Krasnodar and asked: `Mother, what is my blood type?”

The Krasnodar region in southern Russia hosts a training base for the Wagner company on the grounds of a Russian Defense Ministry installation, according to social media evidence and testimony of the relatives. A listing for the company could not be found to seek comment.

Gavrilova and a relative of another Wagner fighter stated.the men from Kedrovoye all traveled to Krasnodar before traveling to Syria. 

 

  

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