Feb 13, 2018

Report: U.S. forces killed scores of Russian mercenaries in Syria

Erica Pandey, author of @Work

A coalition air strike in Syria. Photo: Delil Souleiman / AFP via Getty Images

American forces in Syria killed at least 100 Russian mercenaries fighting for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad after they launched a failed — and perhaps rogue — attack on a base and oil refinery held by U.S.-led troops, Bloomberg reports, citing a U.S. official and three Russian sources. The U.S. military accepted Russia's claim that it had nothing to do with the attack.

Why it matters: It may have been "the deadliest clash between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War," per Bloomberg.

  • The number of deaths from the attack is already close to five times more the official Russian death toll in Syria since 2015. And it's still rising, per a Russian commander.
  • Russian sources told Bloomberg more than 200 mercenaries were killed, while a U.S. official said 100 died and another 200 to 300 were injured.
  • The mercenaries involved reportedly belonged to Wagner, the Russian counterpart to American private security force Academi — once known as Blackwater.
  • “Coalition officials were in regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the thwarted, unprovoked attack ... Russian officials assured coalition officials they would not engage coalition forces in the vicinity," said U.S. Colonel Thomas F. Veale, a military spokesman, in a statement.

Go deeper

CNN crew arrested live on air while reporting on Minneapolis protests

CNN's Omar Jimenez and his crew were arrested Friday by Minneapolis state police while reporting on the protests that followed the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in the city.

What happened: CNN anchors said Jimenez and his crew were arrested for not moving after being told to by police, though the live footage prior to their arrests clearly shows Jimenez talking calmly with police and offering to move wherever necessary.

First look: Trump courts Asian American vote amid coronavirus

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The president's re-election campaign debuts its "Asian Americans for Trump" initiative in a virtual event tonight, courting a slice of the nation's electorate that has experienced a surge in racism and harassment since the pandemic began.

The big question: How receptive will Asian American voters be in this moment? Trump has stoked xenophobia by labeling COVID-19 the "Chinese virus" and the "Wuhan virus" and equating Chinatowns in American cities to China itself.

How the U.S. might distribute a coronavirus vaccine

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Now that there are glimmers of hope for a coronavirus vaccine, governments, NGOs and others are hashing out plans for how vaccines could be distributed once they are available — and deciding who will get them first.

Why it matters: Potential game-changer vaccines will be sought after by everyone from global powers to local providers. After securing supplies, part of America's plan is to tap into its military know-how to distribute those COVID-19 vaccines.