Russia, U.S. trade blame over armored vehicle skirmish in Syria

The seven soldiers sustained “mild concussive-type injuries and muscular strains consistent with vehicular crashes,” Urban said. All have returned to duty.

Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman also blamed Russian forces for breaching the deconfliction agreement and injuring U.S. service members with “deliberately provocative and aggressive behavior.”

“We have advised the Russians that their behavior was dangerous and unacceptable,” Hoffman said. “We expect a return to routine and professional deconfliction in Syria and reserve the right to defend our forces vigorously whenever their safety is put at risk.”

Videos of the encounter between Russian and coalition armored vehicles emerged on social media on Wednesday.

The U.S. military statements, which came two days after the incident occurred, contrast sharply with Russian accounts. In a phone call with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Russian Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov blamed U.S. forces for the incident, claiming that American troops attempted to block a Russian patrol “in breach of the existing agreements,” according to an early Thursday Facebook post from the Russian embassy.

During the conversation, Gerasimov told Milley that coalition commanders were notified in advance about the passage of the Russian military through the area, according to the post.

Gerasimov accused the U.S. military of breaching existing agreements and informed Milley that U.S. service members attempted to block the Russian patrol, which “took every step necessary to prevent the incident and proceed with its mission.”

A Pentagon spokesperson said on Wednesday that Milley had spoken with his Russian counterpart, but did not disclose details of the conversation.

In a statement, National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot condemned the Russian actions as “unsafe and unprofessional,” and said they “represent a breach of de-confliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019.”

“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,” Ullyot said.

U.S. lawmakers slammed the Trump administration’s handling of the incident on Wednesday. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democratic member of the Armed Services Committee, called on the president to “speak out against Vladimir Putin and demand answers as to why his troops are harassing and injuring our troops in Syria.”

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, a group of House lawmakers pressed the Pentagon and the White House to “clearly communicate to the highest levels of the Russian government and military that actions like this will not be tolerated.”