Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces stand guard in Raqqa. Photo: Bulent Kilic / AFP / Getty Images

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed on Thursday that five Russians were killed in last week's strike from U.S. and Syrian Democratic Forces, NBC reports.

Why it matters: This is the first public acknowledgement from Moscow about Russian casualties in Syria at the hands of U.S. forces. The five killed are paramilitary contractors, not Russian military personnel. Per the Financial Times, this furthers the idea that "the Kremlin is using hired guns to mask its official involvement."

  • Notable: Russia's resistance to announcing deaths could stem from Putin's re-election attempts as he nears voting in March; per U.S. News and World Report: "Any reports of large numbers of Russian deaths in Syria could create a public relations problem for him."
  • What they're saying: The U.S. was in contact with Russia before, during, and after the attack last week. Per CNN, Defense Secretary James Mattis said: "The Russians professed that they were not aware when we called them about the force that had crossed [the Euphrates]."

Go deeper: The rare strike from the U.S. in Syria.

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Updated 14 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 34,018,143 — Total deaths: 1,014,995 — Total recoveries: 23,674,533Map.
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  3. Health: New poll shows alarming coronavirus vaccine skepticism — New research centers will study "long-haul" COVID — Coronavirus infections rise in 25 states.
  4. Business: Remdesivir is good business for Gilead.
  5. Retail: The holiday shopping season will now begin in October.
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Kendall Baker, author of Sports
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Barstool jumps into sports betting

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Barstool Sports was founded in 2003 as a free gambling newspaper. It later became a sports blog before growing into a media empire, and now things have come full circle with the recent launch of its own branded sportsbook.

Driving the news: The Barstool Sportsbook app saw a record 21,000 downloads per day during its first weekend (Sept. 18–20), breaking DraftKings' and Fanduel's daily records despite Pennsylvania being the only state where it was operational.

Former Afghanistan commander Stanley McChrystal endorses Joe Biden

Ret. Gen. Stanley McChrystal endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president on MSNBC Thursday.

Why it matters: McChrystal came under fire in 2010 during the Obama administration after a Rolling Stone article quoted him as mocking some top civilian officials — including Biden. The general apologized to Biden but was ultimately pushed to resign.