In early February, the US military reflected the attack of a group of Syrian fighters on the Kurdish camp. News agencies and the media reported that hundreds of attackers, including Russian servicemen, were killed. However, the magazine Der Spiegel conducted its own investigation and found that the Russians did not participate at all in the battles: several members of the "PMC Wagner" just did not arrive in time in a neighboring village that fell under the bombardment of the Americans.
Earlier it was reported that in early February, hundreds of Russian soldiers died as a result of US air strikes in Syria, but the research of the German magazine Der Spiegel showed that everything was completely different.
8 February, the US military reported that they stopped the attack of "pro-government forces of Bashar Assad" on the camp of the Democratic forces of Syria under the leadership of the Kurds supported by the United States. The troops of Assad allegedly attacked the Kurdish camp with the use of heavy military equipment, and the US aviation struck back, destroying over a hundred attackers in the self-defense act.
However, what really happened that night in the area of small semi-abandoned villages on the eastern side of the Euphrates? As the correspondent of the edition Christophe Reuter writes, the team of Der Spiegel employees tried to reconstruct the events of those days for two weeks, had conversations with eyewitnesses and participants of the battles, talked with the employee of the only hospital in Deir ez Zor and with the employee of the local military airfield. As a result, journalists managed to restore a complete picture, different from the data that are disseminated in Russian and international media.
As assures Der Spiegel, already at 17 hours 7 February about 250 fighters tried to organize a bridge from the west to the east bank of the Euphrates. They were representatives of two Syrian militia detachments, who, with the support of Iran, are fighting for the regime of Bashar Assad. Also there were soldiers from the 4 division, Afghan and Iraqi fighters and two brigades under the Iranian command. According to eyewitnesses, there were no Russians there.
The United States and Russia have previously agreed to consider the Euphrates River as a kind of border: in the west of the river are the troops of Assad and his allies, in the east - the Democratic forces of Syria, patronized by the Americans, recalls the publication.
Noticing the attempt to organize a ferry to the eastern side of the river, the Americans regarded it as an attack, made a series of warning shots - and the "attackers" retreated. No one was hurt, the author of the article assures. However, they did not surrender: twice as many people of the same armed formation crossed the Euphrates in another place with darkness and went unnoticed to the village of Marrat on the eastern shore. When about 22 hours they again moved to the camp of the Democratic forces of Syria, the Americans opened fire to defeat. According to the American side, after 20 or 30 artillery shells passed in 500 m from the headquarters of the Kurdish detachment, the coalition forces attacked the enemy from the ground and air.
"And it's still said softly," emphasizes Christoph Reuther. When, at about the same time, an additional group of Syrian militia and Shiite fighters attacked the same Kurdish camp from the village of Tabia, the Americans used all available means of destruction in response, the reporter assures. They used drones armed with missiles, combat helicopters, and also heavy aircraft AS-130 for striking ground targets, missiles and artillery. They struck at night and later - in the morning, by a group of Syrian militia, who came only to pick up the dead bodies. The Americans continued to strike and 9 February, when the same armed enemy group appeared on the east bank of the river.
According to the participants of the events by the Syrian militia, the US military was furious that they earlier agreed that some of the fighters supporting Bashar Assad and those who participated in the fight against the IG * remained on the eastern bank of the river, if their The number does not exceed 400 people and if they behave peacefully. However, this part of the agreement was broken. Moreover, a small number of Russian fighters were also present near the settlement of Tabia on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. However, according to the Syrians, they did not participate in the fighting. Nevertheless, up to 20 of them died. In total, more than 200 attackers perished: about 80 Syrian soldiers from the 4 division, about 100 Iraqis and Afghans, and about 70 Syrians from the militia.
As noted in the article, everything happened at night, but because of the hasty retreat of the fighters from Tabia, the situation became entangled. An employee of the only major hospital in Deir ez-Zor later reported that about a dozen bodies of Russians were delivered there. The airport employee saw the bodies of the dead loaded in two pickup trucks and taken to the waiting Russian transport vehicle, which left after that towards the airport on the northern border of Syria.
Subsequently, the identity of nine dead Russians was identified, writes Der Spiegel. All of them were members of a private military company known as the "Wagner Group". However, at first the information spread in the media about the fact that the dead Russians were much more, several hundred, and the Kremlin allegedly is trying to hide it. This version sounded so convincing that western news agencies picked it up, despite the fact that the government in Moscow did not confirm this data and only spoke of the five Russian deaths. But if the Kremlin denies or only partially recognizes something related to the Syrian war, it only adds the appropriate version of plausibility - especially since Russian losses in Syria are constantly being underestimated, the German journalist believes.
According to the comment of his Syrian colleague, a native of Tabia who emigrated to Turkey and founded the Euphrates Post news portal, but maintained contacts in Syria, the operation in early February was not a Russian attack with a large number of casualties among Russians: "Russians in Tabia simply were not lucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. "
* "Islamic State" (IG) - the organization is recognized as terrorist by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation from 29.12.2014.