Polemic in Moscow over Russian mercenaries killed by the US coalition in Syria

Home"TO THE ONE"Polemic in Moscow over Russian mercenaries killed by the US coalition in Syria
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Several Russians working under contract with Damascus are among the hundreds of pro-Assad fighters targeted by a bombing raid in the Deir ez-Zor region.

What happened on the night of February 7 to 8 in the Deir ez-Zor region of eastern Syria? More than 100 armed men fighting for the Syrian regime were killed, and dozens more were wounded in a failed offensive to seize a gas site under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces ( FDS), an Arab-Kurdish alliance backed by Washington, and American soldiers who were there.

The presence of many mercenaries of Russian nationality among the victims sparked a lively controversy in Moscow: many consider it to be the most serious indirect clashes between Russia and the United States since the end of the cold war.

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Around 11 pm, on February 7, several pro-Assad units, gathered in the village of Khasham, about eight kilometers from the Euphrates, are preparing to go on the offensive, supported by tanks and artillery. They are targeting the nearby Coneco plant as the US-led coalition airs raids and bombards the column.

Strikes "Defensive", immediately assures the Pentagon, which advances the number of" one hundred " victims and 300 to 400 wounded, while not being able to determine whether Russians were on site. On Thursday, February 15, for the first time, Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Minister, admitted the death of "Five people probably Russian".

The list should lengthen. "What we saw coming was a unit the size of a battalion," Tuesday, Feb. 13, Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of the US Air Force, describing an attack "Enemy forces against a known FDS position. " "The coalition acted in self-defensehe affirmed then. We immediately contacted the Russian officials on the phone line of deconfliction to alert them ... "

"It's an assault"

Two days later, in the same region, 15 other Russian nationals working for a private security company were also killed by the unexplained explosion of an arms depot in Tabiya Jazeera, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. the man.

In Moscow, Senator Franz Klinsevich, formerly vice-chairman of the Russian Federation Council's Defense and Defense Committee, denounces "Unprecedented US military operations". "It's an assault," he says on February 8th. In parallel, Igor Strelkov, the former head of the Russian volunteers engaged in the war of Donbass, in the east of Ukraine, deplores on his blog the "Senseless loss" of many of his elders "Comrades" in Syria.

Since then, names and faces of Russian mercenaries killed on the scene of clashes began to appear on social networks: Kirill Ananiev, a native of Moscow, Alexey Ladiguin, Ryazan, Stanislav Matveiev, Igor Kosoturov and Ruslan Gabrilov, from the region from Sverdlovsk, Vladimir Loguinev, Kaliningrad, Alexey Chikhov from Nizhny Novgorod ...

Asked several times, Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman of the Kremlin, has so far kicked in touch. Russia is not concerned, he argues, since his armed forces are not involved. According to several sources, however, wounded were repatriated to hospitals in Moscow and St. Petersburg. A relative of Igor Strelkov, Mikhail Polinkov, published an audio recording in which a man posing as one of the mercenaries on the scene of the bombing gives the name of the battalion, Carpathians.

"It was Grozny 1994"

"We were 700 men, He says. We crossed the Euphrates on February 3rd and were getting ready. Around 11 pm, on the 7th, we lined up in columns to lead the assault (...) when the strikes started. " "It was Grozny 1994", he added, referring to the Chechen capital during the first bloody war with Russia.

"If massive losses of Russian citizens have taken place in Syria, the power, including the head of the armed forces of the Russian Federation, is required to announce it to the country and determine who is responsible," protests Grigori Iavlinski, Democratic-Liberal candidate for the next Russian presidential election, on his Twitter account.

"Why do Russian citizens participate in military operations in Syria despite statements by the President and the Minister of Defense regarding the withdrawal of the Russian armed forces from this country and the end of the civil war in Syria? he continues on his campaign site. The threat of an accidental or deliberate direct military confrontation between Russia and the United States is increasing. "

Stated by the agency Interfax, Vitali Naoumkine, senior adviser of the Russian government on Syria, admits that "Russia is unhappy" of what happened. But, he adds, "We do not have all the information. They are Russian citizens that the state did not send there. ". According to him, Moscow did not "Never took responsibility for their protection".

Known as the "Wagner", a private security company that has worked in Ukraine and Syria, Russian mercenaries have no legal existence in Russia. Their links with power, however, are obvious. Their leader had taken a photo with President Vladimir Putin during a reception at the Kremlin in December 2016. The Russian fighters in the pro-government units targeted on February 8 by the strikes of the American coalition are for the most part ex-Wagner, but they would now be part of a new company called "Europolice", under contract with the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

Created in 2016 in the suburbs of Moscow according to the news website Fontanka this business would have looked more like an empty shell in its infancy before seeing its capital brutally increase the following year. Now headed by Oleg Ierokhine, a former Special Forces of the Ministry of the Interior, it would be tasked to regain control of the oil fields, for a portion of their income, on behalf of the Syrian regime. Damascus intends to prepare, with its allies, the reconstruction of the country.

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