Several international news agencies and media outlets reported that the US-led coalitionkilled “dozens” of Russian private military contractors (PMCs) in its airstrikes against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in Deir Ezzor on February 7. While some of these outlets claimed that over 20 Russian PMCs were killed in the airstrikes, others went as far as claiming that over 100 were killed. All of these claims are based on so-called “anonymous sources”.
In response to this wave of claims, Russia’s UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia told reporters on February 8 that no Russian forces were at the SAA positions that were hit by the US-led coalition. Even US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on February 8 that there were no Russian fighters among the SAA units that were attacked by the coalition, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Furthermore, Syrian pro-government sources confirmed that 20 to 30 fighters of the Arab al-Bakara tribe were the main casualties in the US-led coalition airstrikes on the SAA. The tribe confirmed this claim soon after in an official statement.
The statements of Nebenzia, Mattis, al-Bakara and the lack of any real evidence didn’t put an end to this wave of claims. On the contrary some, Syrian opposition news outlet went on and claimed on February 9 that over 130 Russian PMCs were killed in the February 8 airstrikes.
The claims didn’t stop there. As several opposition sources reported that the Deir Ezzor Military Council (DMC) backed by the US-led coalition launched an attack against the SAA on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River and captured the village of al-Tabiyah.
However, these claims were not confirmed by the US-led coalition or the DMC itself. Moreover, US Department of Defense spokesperson Dana White said on February 8 that the US-led coalition is not looking to start a conflict with the SAA and the Damascus government.
These reports about “Russian casualties” in the US-led coalition airstrikes against the SAA are another example of the ongoing propaganda war, wihch is an important part of the Syrian conflict.