Russia Accuses U.S. of Hindering Patrol in Syria After Collision Injures U.S. Troops

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Russian President Vladimir Putin looking toward U.S. President Donald Trump during a joint press conference in Helsinki, July 16, 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin looking toward U.S. President Donald Trump during a joint press conference in Helsinki, July 16, 2018.Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais,AP

Moscow on Thursday accused the U.S. military of trying to hinder a Russian patrol in Syria after Washington said U.S. troops had been injured in a collision with a Russian vehicle.

Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian military's General Staff, told his U.S. counterpart in a phone call that Russia had warned the U.S.-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.

Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said several U.S. troops suffered concussive symptoms following the incident.

While interactions between American and Russian forces are not rare, the incident highlights the risks of troops from both countries operating in close proximity in northern Syria and the potential for a rapid escalation in tensions.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said the incident took place on Aug. 25 near Dayrick, in northeast Syria.

"To de-escalate the situation, the coalition patrol departed the area," he said. "The coalition and the United States do not seek escalation with any national military forces, but U.S. forces always retain the inherent right and obligation to defend themselves from hostile acts," he added.

Videos on social media showed Russian military vehicles, backed by a pair of helicopters, driving dangerously close to U.S. armored vehicles. The origin of the videos was unclear.

The U.S. military does not generally comment on injuries. However, last month a paratrooper was killed during a vehicle rollover accident in eastern Syria.

The U.S. military said the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, spoke with his Russian counterpart on Wednesday, but provided no details on what was discussed.

About 500 U.S forces remain in northern Syria after a sharp reduction in troops that were initially there to drive out Islamic State militants from all their strongholds in the country.

Some of the areas also have oil resources, something President Donald Trump has cited as a justification for keeping U.S. troops partnered with Kurdish allies in the region.

The injuries were first reported by Politico.

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