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.

Go deeper

Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 11,520,461 — Total deaths: 535,499 — Total recoveries — 6,231,052Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 2,911,888 — Total deaths: 130,101 — Total recoveries: 906,763 — Total tested: 35,515,075Map.
  3. Public health: Case growth outpacing testing in hotspots.
  4. States: West Virginia becomes latest state to mandate facial coverings in public.
  5. Politics: Cuomo accuses Trump of "enabling" the coronavirus surge — Sen. Chuck Grassley opts out of attending GOP convention over coronavirus concerns.

Trump ramps up culture war attacks

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump's attacks are spreading to sports that are cornerstones of rural, conservative white American life.

Why it matters: The culture war that engulfed the NBA and NFL is reaching other major leagues, with teams that stonewalled activists for years suddenly showing a willingness to listen.

Foreign students could be forced to leave U.S. if colleges move online

Harvard University campus in April 2020. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Foreign college students could be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer schools if their universities move classes entirely online this fall, according to guidance released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Monday.

Why it matters: Several U.S. colleges and universities — most recently Harvard — have announced plans to move most or all courses online this fall due to coronavirus concerns. Many institutions rely heavily on tuition from international students.