'False from start to finish': Russian defense ministry slams Reuters report on military casualties
“It’s not the first time that British news agency Reuters is trying by any means to discredit Russia’s operation to destroy IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists and restore peace in Syria,” defense ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov said in statement Wednesday.
Moscow also recalled “Reuters' hysteria” over unverified reports of civilian casualties from an alleged Russian bombardment of Aleppo, Syria in early 2017 “when no Russian aircraft even approached the city.”
The ministry also criticized the news agency for turning a blind eye to the atrocities of militants in Aleppo and the sufferings of civilians in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria due to airstrikes by the US-led coalition.
“The publication of UK’s Reuters about the alleged massive ‘classified losses’ of Russian servicemen in Syria is no exception to this trend,” Konashenkov said.
The spokesman pointed out the questionable credibility of the sources in the report, including “some kind of rumors, data from social networks and fictitious conversations with allegedly ‘intimidated’ and anonymous ‘relatives and acquaintances.”
“At the same time, the servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces are only slightly mentioned (by Reuters). Instead, a myth is planted about some killed ‘mercenaries’ from a ‘mysterious’ organization,” he said.
The defense ministry was emphatic in that “there are no, and never were [there] any alleged ‘secret’ burials of Russian servicemen, who died in Syria. Attempts to present private individuals, who aren’t related to the Russian Armed Forces and the operation in Syria, as such – are false from start to finish.”
“Unlike the British military, which is illegally deployed in Syria, Russian soldiers are risking their lives… as they deliver humanitarian aid to the Syrians or reconciling the warring parties,” it said.
“Therefore, the mockery over the issue of deaths of Russian soldiers in Syria by British news agency Reuters can cause anything nothing, but our contempt,” the ministry underlined.
Earlier Wednesday, Reuters published a report claiming the Russian death toll in Syria since the start of the years has reached 40.
The anonymous sources in the publication also insisted that some of the Russians killed on the battlefield were employees of private security firms.
Official figures from the defense ministry state that 34 Russian servicemen had been killed in Syria since the start of the Russian military campaign in 2015, including 11 soldiers this year.
Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said there were no grounds to doubt the death toll provided by the Russian military.
“Data comes through the defense ministry, one should be guided by this data, it is official,” Peskov added.
As for the claim that Russian citizens are fighting in Syria as volunteers, “it has nothing to do with the [Russian] state or the defense ministry, therefore regarding this information, one should address Reuters on where [they got it from] and what sources they used," the Kremlin spokesman said.