On Sunday there were a series of solitary pickets against Russia’s military campaign in Syria outside the Ministry of Defense building in Moscow. Muscovite journalist Denis Styazhkin wrote in his blog that picketers held banners with anti-military slogans and criticism of the Russian government, the Echo of Moscow reports. The publication states that three days after US strikes on Assad’s forces in Syria, the Russian authorities have not reacted to the reports on the death of “possibly dozens of Russian citizens”. According to US and Kurdish sources, an airstrike was made against the advancing pro-government forces in the region of Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria. The Russians who were killed were in all likelihood not regular soldiers, but members of the so-called private military companies, Echo of Moscow reports.
On February 9, a team of investigators from the Conflict Intelligence Team wrote on Facebook that according to sources in the Pentagon there were “Russian mercenaries” among the pro-Assad forces killed in the international coalition’s airstrike. This information has not been confirmed or denied officially.
The private military companies are independent of the State, and so their losses are outside the competence of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was the opinion expressed by LDPR party leader and presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Last Friday The Washington Post wrote that “the fatal encounter” between the US and Russian armed forces in Syria is a “bad omen”. General Hassan, the commander of the Syrian Kurds who witnessed the encounter, called the Russians’ actions “irresponsible”. The US sees this as a “chronic problem” which prevents the finding of a solution to the Syrian conflict.