The Russian Foreign Ministry says that "several dozen" citizens of Russia and other former Soviet republics who are not members of the military were wounded in a recent battle with U.S.-led forces in Syria.
The Foreign Ministry statement on February 20 was Moscow's first formal acknowledgement that Russian mercenaries suffered heavy casualties in a lopsided clash in Syria's Deir-al-Zor on February 7.
The statement gave no new figure for the number of Russians killed in the incident, which Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on February 15 was about five -- far fewer than some reports have suggested.
In recent days, media outlets, open-source researchers, and relatives and colleagues of Russian mercenary soldiers have said that many Russians -- possibly dozens or hundreds -- may have died in the exchange.
"In the course of a recent military confrontation...there were deaths [among] citizens of Russia and countries of the CIS...and there were wounded -- several dozens of them," the new statement said.
It said that "servicemen of the Russian Federation in no way took part" in the clash, and that no Defense Ministry weapons or vehicles were not used.
The CIS is the Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes 11 former Soviet republics.