USA airstrike destroys Russian-made tank in Syria

Syrian pro-government members hold a position as they stand on the back of an armoured vehicle in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor

The Pentagon says a counterattack aimed at defending USA forces in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province a week ago went on for more than three hours and involved B-52 strategic bombers, AC-130 gunships, F-15E attack planes, Apache attack helicopters and Reaper drones.

Last week's offensive began about 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of the Euphrates River deconfliction line late February 7, when pro-Assad forces fired rounds and advanced in a "battalion-sized formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars", Colonel Thomas F. Veale, a spokesman for the US military, said in a statement.

The associates named the dead as Vladimir Loginov, a Cossack from Russia's western Kaliningrad region, and Kirill Ananyev, a radical nationalist from Moscow.

Ionov said not all those killed were Russian: Some of the paid fighters came from other countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.

Already Grigory Yavlinsky, a veteran liberal politician who is running for president in elections next month, has called on Putin to disclose how many Russians had been killed in Syria and in what circumstances.

"We have details of servicemen of the Russian armed forces, who are taking part in the Russian military operation in support of the Syrian army", Dmitry Peskov said.

Russia, which along with Iran has supported the Assad regime, declined to comment on the casualties.

Vitaly Naumkin, perhaps Russia's most prominent Syria expert, also urged restraint in a news conference at the Valdai Discussion Club.

In a surprise trip to Russia's air base in Syria in December, Putin said that Russian and government forces had "crushed" terrorists and ordered a partial withdrawal of the Russian contingent there.

He also said Putin didn't speak about anything related to Syria in a phone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday.

More news: Egypt Continues Military Operations In Sinai Amid Reports Of Israeli Backing

Top Photo | Russian soldiers walk outside a hospital in Deir el-Zor, Syria, Sept. 15, 2017.

The attack on pro-Damascus forces wasn't the first one carried out by the US-led coalition.

What are Russia's casualties in the Syrian conflict?

The US military has confirmed that it has attacked pro-government forces in eastern Syria. Utkin was photographed next to President Vladimir Putin at a Kremlin reception in late 2016, held to honor him and others for their service to Russian Federation, for which they have received state awards, according to Peskov.

Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, said the coalition had spoken with Russian Federation via a special hotline prior to the strike "to avoid misperceptions and miscalculations that could endanger each other's forces".

However, Russian law forbids the hiring of mercenaries or working as one. "I advise you to contact the defence ministry".

Wagner, which is under U.S. sanctions for supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine, has several hundred contractors in Syria, according to analysts.

The rift deepened after Turkey launched an operation targeting the YPG in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria on January 20, despite calls by the US for restraint.

We don't run a whole lot of news on the geopolitical and military fronts, but we think we found a story today that everyone needs to be wary of. In recent days, rumors swirled online in Russian Federation that large numbers of those military contractors had perished under American fire.

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