As details continue to emerge of last week's United States attacks on pro-Syrian forces, it appears that dozens, or by some accounts scores, of the slain were actually Russian military contractors working for the Syrian government.
The incident underscored the potential for further conflict in Syria's oil-rich east, where the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias holds swathes of land after its offensive against Islamic State.
The associates named the dead as Vladimir Loginov, a Cossack from Russia's western Kaliningrad region, and Kirill Ananyev, a radical nationalist from Moscow.
Putin has said at least three times since 2016 that combat operations in Syria were winding down, including once during a surprise visit to a Russian air base in Syria in December.
Retired Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, head of the defense committee in the lower house of Russia's parliament, said the government needs to oversee private military contractors.
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The companies have repeatedly denied that the Chinese government is using them to spy on the United States. King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the attacks on USA democracy will continue.
They also come weeks ahead of Russia's March 18 presidential election.
The Americans say their presence in Syria is necessary not only to solve military issues, "but until there is a stable political process there that should end with the transition of power that would be acceptable to all, that is, regime change". Putin talked with U.S. President Donald Trump by phone Monday, but the military action in Syria wasn't discussed, he said.
Top Photo | Russian soldiers walk outside a hospital in Deir el-Zor, Syria, Sept. 15, 2017.
Harrigian said the attack by the pro-Assad forces was not a surprise since the US and its partners had observed them engaged in a slow buildup the week before the attack.
Defense Officials have not clarified what flag the men inside the tank fought under, though reports have indicated that they may have been Russian mercenaries, as numerous unconfirmed reports from Syria have indicated that a large number of Russian contractors have been fighting alongside Syrian forces in support of President Bashar al Assad. For reasons that remain unclear, Syrian government troops and some Russian nationals appear to have attacked a coalition position, near Al Tabiyeh, Syria.
But beyond Russia's official military engagement in Syria backing the regime, an unknown number of Russian mercenaries are fighting as part of Assad's army.
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Asked about the prospect of Neymar leaving to join Madrid , the centre-back told Canal +: "I don't know". He signed a deal with PSG until 2022.
This incident is not the first time Russian mercenaries have been reported to be operating in Syria. The firm has not commented on the reports.
Asked about the killing of Russian mercenaries in Syria, CIA Director Mike Pompeo told a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington Tuesday that he would leave specifics to the Pentagon but "we have seen in multiple instances foreign forces using mercenaries in battles that will begin to approach the United States". "I advise you to contact the defence ministry".
Private contractors - why are they in Syria?
"This is a big scandal and a reason for an acute global crisis", said Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat and lawmaker who's now an independent political analyst.
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Schulz has also been criticized by fellow SPD politician and current Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel for pursuing the post. After initially declining a new coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, the party accepted it last week.
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