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Iran Press TV

Deaths of '300 Russians' in Syria sent warning to Moscow, Pompeo says

Iran Press TV

Friday, 31 July 2020 8:27 AM

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the deaths of "300 Russians" in a failed attack on a military base held by US and mainly Kurdish forces in Syria's oil-rich eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr more than two years ago sent a warning to Moscow.

Speaking at a Senate hearing on Thursday, Pompeo sought to forestall criticism over President Donald Trump's statement that he had not raised with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin accusations that Moscow paid the Taliban bounties to kill US troops in Afghanistan.

"I don't think there's any doubt in the mind of every Russian leader, including Vladimir Putin, about the expectations of the United States of America not to kill Americans," Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"I can promise you that the 300 Russians who were in Syria and who took action that threatened America who are no longer on this planet understand that, too," he said.

On February 7, 2018, hundreds of Russian forces aligned with Syrian government troops were killed in US airstrikes near the town of Khursham in Syria's Dayr al-Zawr province.

US officials claimed at the time that the Russian fighters had crossed the Euphrates River and were shelling the positions of the Kurdish-led militants from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), where American advisers were present.

Syria's state-run al-Ikhbariyah Syria television news network then condemned the "brutal massacre" by the United States, and said the bombing had left "dozens of people dead and wounded."

The Russian Defense Ministry also said Syrian government troops and their allies were hit as they launched an operation against the Daesh Takfiri terrorists in the region.

Russian jets have been carrying out air raids against targets belonging to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group and those of other terror outfits inside Syria at the Damascus government's formal request since September 2015.

The airstrikes have helped Syrian forces advance against anti-Damascus terrorists, who have been wreaking havoc in the Arab country since 2011.

Earlier this month, the Kremlin roundly dismissed news reports that US intelligence had allegedly found Russia offered bounties on American troops in Afghanistan.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the reports "hoaxes," and stated that they damage the reputation of the media that publish them.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, for its part, said the initial story in The New York Times demonstrated the "low intellectual abilities of US intelligence propagandists."

Trump said in an interview with "Axios on HBO" published on Wednesday that he did not bring up intelligence reports that Moscow paid the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, when he spoke with the Russian leader last week.

Senator Robert Menendez told Pompeo on Thursday that Trump's remarks were "astonishing" and that the bounties marked an "outrageous escalation" by Russia.

Menendez also asked the US state secretary how he would have acted if a Democratic president acted similarly to Trump.

"If you were sitting in your old House seat, would you be okay with a president who abandoned our troops but not even raising this with the Kremlin?" he said.

Pompeo said he had raised Afghanistan with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, but declined to comment on Trump's discussions.



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