The chief Kremlin spokesman has suggested that if any Russians were killed by U.S. air strikes in Syria last week, they were not regular soldiers, continuing to distance President Vladimir Putin's government from reports that several Russian mercenaries -- and possibly dozens -- died after staging an attack on U.S. forces and their allies in the Middle Eastern country on February 7, RFE/RL reports.
"We in the Kremlin do not possess detailed information that would enable us to draw conclusions," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on February 14, amid mounting evidence that Russian contract soldiers fighting on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's side were killed in the incident in Deir al-Zor province.
"It cannot be ruled out that there may be citizens of the Russian Federation [fighting] in Syria. They are not connected to the armed forces of the Russian Federation,'' Peskov said in a conference call with journalists. His comments echoed previous statements from the Defense Ministry, which has said no Russian servicemen were in the area at the time.