14 February, 2018
In a statement last Wednesday, the U.S. coalition spokesman Colonel Thomas F. Veale refused to go into details about the possible make-up of the militia, saying they would "not speculate on the exact make-up of the Syrian pro-regime forces who conducted the attack".
One of the dead was 51-year-old Vladimir Loginov.
The New York Times said that Russian and Syrian officials had estimated that dozens of Russians had been killed.
The report of Russian mercenaries being killed by US-backed forces is just the latest scuffle in Syria between various countries and regional actors.
"Vladimir died for the Fatherland, the Cossacks and the Orthodox faith!" the group said.
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.
US -backed Kurdish-led forces have been competing for control of the oil-rich eastern province of Deir el-Zour with Russian-backed Syrian troops that are reinforced by Iranian-supported militias. A U.S. detachment was at the base. "The defensive position was within effective range of the hostile weapons systems".
One of the Russians killed was Kirill Ananyev, according to his friend Aleksandr Averin.
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"I can confirm that Kirill died on February 7 in Syria, near the Euphrates River, as a result of a strike by the American coalition", Averin said in an interview, adding that he was aware of "substantial losses" suffered by "paramilitary structures with ties to Russian Federation". Earlier this week, there was a mass funeral for about 30 members of the militia - which often describes itself as the "ISIS hunters" - in the town. Assad may have hired Wagner to recapture and guard Syrian energy assets in return for lucrative oil concessions, according to Russian media reports. Since past year, Russian Federation and Syria have trumpeted their success in regaining control of about 55 percent of Syrian territory. Reports of the supposed fatalities have emerged on social media.
In the past two weeks, in addition to the Iranian drone incident and the Israeli strikes, Kurdish fighters in Syria shot down a Turkish helicopter that was attacking them last week, killing two Turkish soldiers on board, and Syrian rebels shot down a Russian fighter jet.
Wagner is registered in Hong Kong and has no public offices in Russian Federation and no contact details.
But American Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said they had no such information on casualties, and the Kremlin did not confirm any Russian deaths.
"If there has been mass deaths of Russian citizens in Syria, then the relevant authorities, including the general staff of the Russian armed forces, have a duty to inform the country about this and decide who bears responsibility", Yavlinsky, who is running against Putin in next month's election, said on Twitter. "We have not received that word at Central Command or the Pentagon", Mattis said.
Officials in both Moscow and Washington remained coy about the deaths, which would be an embarrassment for both countries if it turns out that Russian fighters were part of a unit that attacked a military force with American troops.
"The Russians professed that they were not aware when we called them about that force that had crossed [the Euphrates]".