“If you threaten us, it will be your longest, and your worst, day.” — Jim Mattis.
The Russians’ longest day occurred on February 7, when 500 (including Russian mercenaries) launched an attack on a base housing Syrian opposition forces along with US military advisers.
WASHINGTON — U.S. air strikes killed multiple Russia mercenary soldiers serving in Syria, according to news reports and open-source researchers, with some reports saying dozens may have died.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman denied knowledge of the February 7 incident in the Deir al-Zor region, whose mystery has deepened in recent days, as relatives and colleagues of Russians soldiers serving in Syria have begun speaking out.
The U.S. Defense Department said the air strikes, which included fighter and ground-attack aircraft, and Marine artillery, targeted Syrian government-backed troops after as many as 500 attackers launched a coordinated assault on a base housing Syrian opposition forces, along with U.S. military advisers in Deir al-Zor.
U.S. officials said around 100 soldiers were killed, but did not identify them.
“I will not speculate on the composition of this force or whose control they were under,” Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said on February 13. “We are focused on a singular enemy: ISIS. We’re not looking for a fight with anyone else, but as [U.S. Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis said last week: ‘If you threaten us, it will be your longest, and your worst, day.'”
Over the weekend, however, reports emerged on Russian blogs and elsewhere that an unknown number of Russian contract soldiers were killed.
US forces defended the base with B-52 bombers, F-22 fighters, AC-130 gunships, Apache helicopters, and Marine artillery. According to Reuters, the Russian attackers may have lost as many as 300 men.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stopped short of confirming on February 15 that Russian contract soldiers were among those killed during hours of U.S. bombardment on February 7 by B-52 strategic bombers, F-22 fighter jets, AC-130 gunships, and Apache attack helicopters.
The Russians have been using mercenaries in both Syria and Ukraine. This is the first direct confrontation between US forces and Russian forces. They are finding that it is much more difficult to engage US forces than it is to target Syrian civilians, including Syrian school children and Syrian hospitals.
Russian forces on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border have targeted Ukrainian military and civilian targets with artillery and missile strikes. Families of so-called Russian contractors do not receive the same death benefits that the families of regular soldiers receive. The bodies are returning home, and questions are being asked, and ignored.
Another woman in the Sverdlovsk region, whose husband is also thought to have died in Deir al-Zor, was more scathing in her criticism of authorities and a perceived lack of government support. She told Current Time TV that he and his fellow fighters were “thrown into battle like pigs.”
Click on the two links in the essay for the complete articles from Radio Free Europe.