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Kremlin: Russian private citizens fighting for Syria's Assad are volunteers

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Any Russian private citizens fighting with pro-government forces in Syria are volunteers and the Russian Defence Ministry has nothing to do with them, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

Based on accounts from families and friends of the dead and local officials, Reuters estimates the actual death toll in Syria among Russian soldiers and private contractors was at least 40 in 2017, far higher than the official figures.

"If there are Russian citizens in Syria as volunteers and so on, they have nothing to do with the state", Peskov said.

(Writing by Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Christian Lowe)