Following up to last night's bombshell report that at least two Russian mercenary fighters in Syria had been killed by us -led coalition forces, this morning Bloomberg is out with an exclusive, according to which the body count is far greater than had been disclosed: USA forces reportedly killed "scores" of Russian contract soldiers in Syria last week "in what may be the deadliest clash between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War" Bloomberg reported.
The T-72 tank came from the "same hostile forces" which attacked USA special operations troops and allied Syrian fighters last Wednesday in eastern Syria, officials said.
"Much about the attack and the associated casualties has been obscured in the fog of war".
Russian Federation officially withdrew regular forces from Syria in December after two years of fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad, but hundreds of private military contractors and mercenaries remained. The private fighters allowed the Kremlin to keep the official death toll from its campaign in Syria low and avoid the negative public perception of its involvement in Syria.
The attack on the base in an oil refinery may have been a rogue operation by the Russian forces, highlighting the complex civil war in Syria that has involved a hodgepodge of fighters from the US, Russia, stateless Kurds, the Islamic State and local powers Iran, Turkey and Israel, the report said.
Russia's military has said it had nothing to do with the attack and the USA accepted the claim.
But occasional attacks on pro-regime forces, which the United States says are conducted in self defence, raise the risks of America being sucked into a broader conflict. "Russian officials assured Coalition officials they would not engage Coalition forces in the vicinity".
If the high estimates of Russian casualties are confirmed, it would be the most lethal clash between USA and Russian citizens since the end of the cold war, and it comes at a time when proxy forces in Syria are increasingly coming into contact, as they compete for territory vacated by retreating Islamic State militants.
The Russian Defense Ministry charged that the incident reflected a USA push to grab Syria's economic assets under the cover of fighting the Islamic State group.
But American Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said they had no such information on casualties, and the Kremlin did not confirm any Russian deaths.
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Mr Yavlinsky said fierce mercenary forces "are trained at Russian army facilities" and "receive military awards in the Kremlin" in secret.
The United States described the February 7 airstrike southeast of the city of Deir al-Zour as a counterattack after an unprovoked assault by pro-government forces on a base where USA troops were operating in support of local partner units.
The US claimed their actions were in self-defense, calling it a response to the alleged attacks on the US-backed Syrian Defense Forces, but it is unclear whether any threat was posed by the destroyed facilities.
Russian Federation launched an air campaign to back Assad's ground forces in September 2015.
For more than three hours, American F-15E attack planes, B-52 strategic bombers, AC-130 gunships, Apache attack helicopters and Reaper drones fired on the attacking ground force, which Harrigian said was advancing under covering fire from artillery, mortars, rockets and tank rounds.
A representative of the Syrian Foreign Ministry, Ayman Soussan, said during Tuesday's press conference "we are not bound by anything that is formed by foreign sides, whatever their name or state, we are not bound by it, and it is of no concern to us".
Dan Shapiro, a former USA ambassador to Israel and a fellow at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies wrote in an email on Tuesday that a clash could happen, but wasn't inevitable. They have nothing to gain by fighting us.
The Russian Defence Ministry says the incident on February 7 reflects a U.S. push to grab Syria's economic assets under the cover of fighting ISIL.
The men were working for a private Russian company called Wagner, which has sent hundreds of private contractors to Syria to help both the Russian military and pro-regime forces, according to people who knew them.