7. feb. 2023 21:39 – Updated 7 Feb. 2023 21:39
Five years ago, several Wagner soldiers were killed when they ended up fighting American forces in Syria.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made the Wagner group world famous. The Russian private mercenary army has also participated in conflicts in other countries, including Syria and Mali.
Five years ago, things went very wrong for the Russian mercenaries when they were confronted by American forces on the Syrian battlefield.
Wagner soldiers in the ranks
It was on 7 February 2018 that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad entered an area controlled by both Kurdish and Arab rebels near the town of Khasham in eastern Syria.
There were several Russian mercenaries associated with the Wagner group among the soldiers who would try to take the area around Khasham by force.
At the same time that the regime forces had Wagner soldiers behind them, the rebels were supported by American special forces stationed at a nearby gas field.
When the regime forces turned their noses towards the gas field, it exploded.
Tried to contact Russia
According to documents New York Times gained access to a few months after the incident, regime forces attacked the gas field with around 500 soldiers and 27 vehicles, including tanks.
An American command center in Qatar followed the drama with the help of drones and decided to prepare combat aircraft and ground forces in case the situation escalated, and it did.
The Syrian regime forces and mercenaries from the Wagner Group attacked the gas field. The gas field was hit by projectiles from both tanks and artillery. The air was filled with dust and splinters.
The American leadership tried desperately to contact their Russian counterpart, but to no avail. The Americans then chose to fire warning shots at the regime forces, but that didn’t help either.
In the end, the Americans had to send in fighter planes.
Fighter jets came to the rescue
American fighter jets and attack helicopters were already ready. The next three hours were to be bloody for the Syrian regime forces and the Wagner soldiers.
Along with the fighters and helicopter gunships, the Americans used artillery to drive the 500-man attack force away from the gas field.
At the same time, an American force of 40 men fought alongside insurgents on the ground.
What was left of the regime force and the Wagner soldiers eventually retreated. According to the documents New York Times accessed in 2018, between 200 and 300 regime-loyal soldiers lost their lives in the battle, including Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group.
The American special forces and the Syrian rebels escaped with one injured soldier during the drama at the gas field.
Concession from the Kremlin
Russia supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime in the Syrian civil war, both politically and militarily.
After the battle at the gas field, Russian authorities denied that the Russian state was involved in the attack, but admitted that it was possible that Russian mercenaries lost their lives in the incident.
“Five Russian citizens may have been killed during clashes with US-led coalition forces in Syria this month, but they were not military personnel,” said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, according to Reuters in February 2018.
The Wagner group’s losses are thought to be higher.
As a result of the Ukraine war, it has become clear that the Wagner group and the Russian authorities cooperate more closely than Russia has previously claimed.