The Kremlin and the Pentagon do not have any information on the alleged deaths of Russians during a US attack in Syria, respective officials have told journalists.
Reports of the supposed fatalities have emerged on social media. The reports attribute the alleged casualties to a recent US airstrike and put the figures between 100 and over 600.
“We urge not to use media reports as a primary source in that case. Let’s understand that there are a lot of our compatriots in many countries worldwide, and it’s quite difficult to have detailed information. All the media reports, though, need to be verified.”
“We recommend in that case to reach out to the Defense Ministry, since here we’re dealing with information published in media. We can only operate data on the servicemen of Russian Armed Forces, who take part in the operation of the Russian Airspace forces supporting the Syrian Army. We don’t have information on any other Russians who might be in Syria,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis also said he has no information that Russian army servicemen were among the casualties following the US airstrike.
“I don't have any reporting -- that some Russians -- non-Russian federation soldiers, but Russian contractors were among the casualties. I can't give you anything on that. We have not received that word at Central Command or at the Pentagon,” he told a media briefing on Tuesday.
Mattis called the situation “perplexing,” noting that the reported attack on the SDF base, which allegedly brought about the deadly American retaliation, “makes no sense, it does not appear to be anything coordinated by the Russians.”
Earlier on Monday, one of the Russian presidential candidates, Grigory Yavlinsky, urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide a “report” on “numerous” Russian nationals that were allegedly killed in Syria. The veteran Russian politician, who has been unsuccessfully running for president several times since the 1990s, did not provide any source for the claims, apart from media and social media reports.
“Over the past few days, all the world media and multiple social media sources are reporting on numerous Russian citizens killed while fighting in Syria,” Yavlinsky said in a statement, urging Russian leadership to explain the alleged casualties, and even to end the Syrian campaign altogether.