Russian most advanced fighter arrives in Syria

As UNIAN reported earlier, U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes announced on February 22 that the reported arrival of Russian stealth Su-57 fighter jets to Syria "raises the level of complexity for the (USAF) crew's to deal with".

Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch featured in the intercepted communication seen by the Post, was indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 United States presidential campaign.

This move comes despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's vow to narrow down his country's military presence in Syria.

Among his various enterprises, US intelligence believes that Prigozhin also "almost certainly" controls Russian mercenaries fighting in Syria on behalf of President Bashar Assad.

But who they were remained murky for days as both Moscow and Washington gave few details and played down the incident.

USA intelligence agencies declined to comment on the reports. It's a deployment that could potentially increase the level of danger to U.S. forces operating inside the country.

The February 7 attack was the first deadly clash between citizens of Russian Federation and the United States since the Cold War and suggests that tensions in Syria could grow even as the Islamic State is pushed back.

A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive issue, described the episode as "worrisome".

A senior USA administration official told the Washington Post it was "striking" how the Russian's had distanced themselves from the incident.

"I think [the Russians] realize just how damaging it could be to any further cooperation", the official said.

First it was Russian mercenaries who were apparently killed in a February 7 clash with U.S-led coalition forces in eastern Syria. They were developed to challenge the U.S. F-22 Raptor - and have been called the "F-22 killer".

Reports are that several hundred mercenaries attacked an oil refinery during the night near Deir al-Zour, Syria. American airpower was deployed against the hostile force using Apache gunships, AC-130 gunships, and fast-mover attack aircraft. After three hours, the attacking force retreated, leaving behind what the US military said was about 100 dead attackers.

The Pentagon, in statements since the attack, has repeatedly said it is still investigating and has reached no conclusion on the identities of the attackers. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has called the attack "perplexing", and added he does not understand why pro-regime forces would fire on USA troops.

  • Jon Douglas