Feb 15, 2018

Kremlin confirms 5 Russians killed in U.S. strike in Syria

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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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,066,706 — Total deaths: 56,767 — Total recoveries: 223,697Map.
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  3. Business latest: Mark Cuban criticizes "arrogant" 3M on respirator production — The wartime mobilization effort to produce ventilators and medical supplies got started too late.
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Mark Cuban criticizes "arrogant" 3M on respirator production

Photo: Axios Events

Businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said during an Axios virtual event Friday that 3M is "arrogant" for not speaking up about respirator production in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

What he said: Cuban criticized the company for "making more globally than domestically," echoing a similar line from President Trump now that the U.S. is the epicenter of the pandemic. "You can't ghost the American people," he told Axios CEO Jim VandeHei from Dallas.

Coronavirus puts ambitious plans for self-driving cars on the shelf

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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The big picture: Auto factories are shut down across North America to prevent the spread of the virus among workers, while stay-at-home orders have kept car shoppers away from showrooms. The resulting financial shock means carmakers have shifted their focus to survival, not investing in expensive technologies with no clear payoff.