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MOSCOW, April 19. /TASS/. Russia’s Defense Ministry has rejected a report by the news agency Reuters on the alleged death toll among the Russian military personnel in the Syrian city of Palmyra.
"There have been no official data on the alleged ‘casualties in a period of fighting for Palmyra. No such official data have ever been published or have ever existed in nature. Therefore, the entire story by the British news agency Reuters about the allegedly undeclared death toll is a set of letters to justify its own headline," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
As the ministry spokesman said, "none of the names mentioned as those found by Britons from Reuters belong to Russian servicemen."
As the general said, Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Thomas Perry and Angus McDowall in Beirut, Joseph Nasra in Berlin and Christian Lowe are mentioned among the authors of the Reuters material who had allegedly gathered information in interviews with Russian cemetery workers and polled Russians.
"It is hardly surprising that the material is literally permeated with the intentional confusion of readers" when one and the same name is mentioned as a contract serviceman and a private military contractor who had signed a contract with the Defense Ministry, the spokesman said.
According to the Russian general, the British news agency issued this material to distract the public’s attention from the fact that Western politicians and diplomats lack real evidence of an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun.
"The entire text is an absolutely false compilation of rumors collected in a hurry to distract attention from the false performance with the alleged chemical attack from the air in Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun," the Russian general said.
The news agency Reuters reported earlier, citing its gathered evidence that the official toll given by the Russian Defense Ministry of its servicemen killed in the Palmyra fighting was allegedly four times lower.
According to Reuters’ tally, the death toll among Russian forces killed in the fighting to retake Palmyra from January 29 until late March stood at 21 while the Russian Defense Ministry officially reported only five servicemen’s deaths, as Reuters asserted.
Reuters reported, in particular, that it had gathered information on 18 dead Russians in Syria on the basis of interviews with friends and acquaintances of the dead servicemen, posts in social networks and also official data from Russian cemeteries.
The news agency said it had found the names of the other three servicemen "in interviews with relatives and friends of the dead men."