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 defense ministry said in a statement.
Washington has said the incident violated safety protocols agreed upon with Moscow.
A small number of U.S. troops were injured during an interaction with Russian forces in Syria, two U.S. officials told Reuters Wednesday.
One of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the injuries were a result of a collision and not any exchange of fire.
The other official said the incident took place earlier this week in northeastern Syria and the injuries were mild.
The Pentagon and the U.S. military's Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in the region, declined to comment.
Videos shared on Twitter, apparently filmed by bystanders and the Russians themselves, appear to show Russian troop carriers and attack helicopters trying to box the U.S. vehicles in and then force them from the area, near the town of al-Malikiyah.
Vehicles appear to bump each other, and at one point – possibly at the beginning of the confrontation – one of the helicopters hovers very low over the halted Americans, blasting them with prop wash.
There were no details available from the National Security Council (NSC) or Pentagon on how many crew were injured and what the extent of the injuries was.
NSC spokesman John Ullyot said the U.S. vehicles were a security patrol of the U.S.-led coalition.
He said the patrol departed the area to de-escalate the situation.
"Unsafe and unprofessional actions like this represent a breach of de-confliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019," said Ullyot.
"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 said.
The U.S. and Russian troops frequently interact in Syria, but confrontations have been rare.
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