U.S. airstrikes last week reportedly killed "scores" of Russian mercenaries allied with the Syrian government. Bloomberg reported Tuesday that a significant number of Russian contract soldiers fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were among the hundreds of soldiers who stormed an oil refinery held by U.S. and U.S.-allied soldiers last week in eastern Syria. The U.S. reacted with airstrikes, which the Syrian government has labeled an unnecessary act of "aggression," CNN says.
What is bizarre about this incident is that it apparently occurred against the wishes of the Russian government. Bloomberg described the attack on the refinery as a "rogue" strike, and the Russian government relayed to the U.S. that it had no hand in the operation. The U.S. has reportedly accepted this version of events. Where the U.S. and Russian stories diverge, however, is regarding the death count. Three Russian sources who spoke to Bloomberg say that upwards of 200 "mostly Russian" mercenaries were killed in the attack and subsequent airstrikes. The U.S. claims the death toll is closer to 100.
Even as the death count is disputed, Bloomberg says that either number would be "about five times more than Russia's official losses since it entered the [Syrian civil] war in 2015."