USA vows to probe Syria attack involving Russians

The ministry repeated that the fighters had traveled to Syria "on their own volition and for various purposes".

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on February 15 about Russian citizens killed in Syria.

Russia has backed Syria's fight against terror since late 2015 when Russian air force and troops arrived in the Arab country at an official request of Damascus to help the government fight against Daesh and other Takfiri militants.

Russia calls on the United States not to play with fire in Syria and carefully prepare its moves, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the International Conference of the Valdai Club for the Middle East. Critics allege that Russian Federation uses mercenaries in Syria to keep official military losses low.

Moscow has provided no details of what the mercenaries were doing, but accounts of the operation have emerged in interviews with family members.

The incident showed Moscow was more deeply involved in Syria militarily than it has said, and risked being drawn into direct confrontation with the United States there.

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Last year, the Associated Press reported that a Russian company linked to Wagner had been promised 25 per cent of profits from oil and gas fields captured from militant control.

Whatever the truth hidden in the fog of war, it raises the prospect of further clashes between Russia and the USA as the conflict in Syria enters a new phase following the defeat of ISIL, and with Israelis, Americans, Russians, Iranians and Turks all operating inside Syria.

Families of the dead men have demanded an explanation for what happened.

A standoff between Washington and Moscow was inflamed earlier this month by aerial attacks from American forces in Syria which led to the killing of about 200 Russian private military contractors.

Zarif for his part said Iran is concerned about a "new wave" of foreign intervention in Syria led by the USA after the defeat of Islamic State. Was it from external sources? "Don't ask me. I don't know", he said, according to a Pentagon transcript. "But I doubt that 250 to 300 people, all just excited on their individual self, suddenly crossed the river in enemy territory, started shelling a location and maneuvering tanks against it", he added.

  • Sonia Alvarado