US soldiers injured in Syria collision with Russian military vehicle
Moscow on Thursday accused the US military of trying to hinder a Russian patrol in Syria after Washington said US troops had been injured in a collision with a Russian vehicle.
Four US soldiers were diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms after a Russian military vehicle seemed to intentionally ram theirs in northeast Syria, several US media outlets reported on Wednesday.
But Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian military's General Staff, told his US counterpart in a phone call that Russia had warned the US-led international coalition in Syria about the movements of the Russian patrol, Russia's defence ministry said in a statement.
Washington has said the incident violated safety protocols agreed with Moscow.
Videos of the encounter posted on social media seem to show a Russian vehicle ramming an American vehicle in an arid desert region of northeast Syria, and a Russian helicopter flying low over US forces.
Politico reported that four US troops suffered mild concussions from the incident. The outlet reviewed a draft statement by Central Command that has not yet been made public.
Meanwhile, CNN, quoting US officials, reported that the altercation was deliberate on the part of Russia. The incident happened when a Russian vehicle "apparently deliberately collided with the Americans causing concussion-like injuries".
The Pentagon was not immediately available for comment.
John Ullyot, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, said in a statement that a Russian vehicle struck an American vehicle during a routine patrol near Dayrick, Syria, at about 10am local time on Tuesday.
"To de-escalate the situation, the coalition patrol departed the area," Ullyot said. "Unsafe and unprofessional actions like this represent a breach of de-confliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019."
While Russian and US forces have operated in close proximity throughout the country's long-running civil war, this is believed to be the first time US troops have been injured in an encounter with Russian forces.
Brett McGurk, a former special envoy for the coalition to defeat the Islamic State group, slammed the White House's response to the incident.
"As #RNC2020 speakers claim we're so respected under Trump's leadership: Russian military forces are ramming and injuring US troops in Syria," McGurk said on Twitter.
"No competent C-in-C would leave our troops in this position," McGurk said, referring to the commander in chief, President Donald Trump. "These incidents have been ongoing for months. Trump has apparently never raised the issue in multiple calls with Putin. He leaves our troops to fend for themselves."
Russian support has been crucial in allowing Bashar al-Assad to remain in power and ultimately regain control of much of the country since the outbreak of Syria's civil war in 2011.