3 Russian journalists injured by gunfire as Douma militants disperse people celebrating liberation

3 Russian journalists injured by gunfire as Douma militants disperse people celebrating liberation
Three Russian journalists have been injured in Syria's eastern Ghouta when their bus came under small arms fire. All of them have received non-life threatening wounds, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The incident occurred when reporters were about to return from the Syrian town of Douma, the last militant-held stronghold in the eastern Ghouta area. NTV broadcaster correspondent Aleksey Ivliyev, Rossiya 1 cameraman Mikhail Vitkin and Zvezda TV cameraman Vladislav Dodonov received non-life threatening leg wounds during the attack.

"All injured journalists immediately received necessary on-site medical assistance by medics from the Russian Center for Syrian reconciliation. Their lives are not in danger," the ministry said in a statement. The journalists have been evacuated to a hospital to receive further treatment, the ministry added. One of the injured journalists, NTV's Ivliyev has already contacted his channel, confirming the events.

REN TV's correspondent Valentin Trushin has provided his account of the incident. The skirmish was prompted by flags put up by the group the journalists arrived with.

"The civilians were fraternizing with the servicemen, taking photos, everything was fine…" Trushin told the channel. "We've boarded the bus – and then shooting erupted. Turns out they've fired into the air. The militants swarmed the area and tried to disperse the civilians and take down the flags. A flag was torn down. Civilians pelted the militants with stones and then one of them got hit. The militant then fired erratically and hits our bus."

The journalists were spared from sustaining more serious injuries because they promptly got on the floor of the bus when the shooting began, Trushin said, adding that the bus was "packed."

The town of Douma remains the last militant-held stronghold in the eastern Ghouta area. The militants, mainly from the Jaysh al-Islam group are being evacuated from the town, following the agreement brokered by the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria.

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Douma came into the media spotlight over the past few days, following the alleged chemical incident reported on Saturday. Pro-militant sources, namely the controversial White Helmets group, claimed that a chlorine-filled munition struck the area, affecting dozens of civilians. The site of the purported attack has since been surrendered by the militants and explored by Russian military specialists, who found no signs of chemical attack or its victims.

The alleged incident, despite lacking any solid facts, has been taken at face value by the US and some other Western countries, who pinned the blame for it on Damascus and Moscow, and they have threatened to attack Syria. On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump vowed to launch “nice and new and ‘smart’” missiles on Syria and told Russia to “get ready” for it. Moscow has earlier stated it would shoot down any incoming munitions and target the launch sites.

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