FILE PHOTO Syrian national flags flutter at the governorate building in the northeastern city of Hasaka © Rodi Said / Reuters
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned journalists not to be misled by distorted data, following multiple reports emerging of Russians killed in Syria.
Peskov added that the Kremlin doesn’t have specific data on the number of Russians other than servicemen present in Syria. However, the presidential spokesman did not rule out the possibility that some Russian nationals other than official military personnel might be currently in Syria, as there are no travel restrictions barring private trips to the country.
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“We do not have concrete detailed information that would allow us to draw any conclusions. It cannot be ruled out that Russian citizens can be present in Syria. They are not Russian military servicemen, that’s all we can say,” Peskov told journalists on Wednesday, adding that “our citizens remain Russian citizens whatever happens.”
He added that Russia does not plan to impose any legislative restrictions on citizens’ private trips to Syria. “There are no restrictions or legislative prohibitions on such trips,” Peskov said.
He noted that various state Russian agencies, including the country’s Foreign Ministry, are issuing statements that contain warnings about the dangers that accompany a trip to a particular country.
The presidential press secretary said that he did not understand a question from a reporter who asked whether Moscow planned to declare mourning over a “high number” of Russians allegedly killed in Syria on February 7.
The Kremlin has no data on the Russians who may be present in Syria other than those belonging to military units, Peskov stated, and recommended applying specifically to the country’s Ministry of Defense for this information. He also called on journalists not to be “misguided by distorted data.”
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“Do not be misguided by erroneous information – intentional or unintentional… be careful about the description of such potentially important incidents in order not to be enthralled by distorted data,” the Kremlin spokesman said.
Earlier this week, reports began circulating on social media alleging that “hundreds” of Russian citizens were killed in clashes with US-led forces in Syria on February 7.
“Reports by a number of western media about hundreds, dozens of dead Russians is classic disinformation,” TASS quoted an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry source as saying on Wednesday.
It was also reported that Syrian pro-government forces, which clashed with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Deir ez-Zor province in early February, included “Russian mercenaries.”
The Russian Defense Ministry had earlier stated that Syrian militia forces came under fire from the US-led coalition on February 7 due to actions that had not been coordinated with the Russian military. The incident left 25 militiamen injured. There were no Russian military servicemen in the area, the ministry stressed.