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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
October 16, 2015

Publication: Putin in Syria
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag Reports That Drone Downed by Turkey Is Likely New Secret Russian UAV Design
As we reportedly earlier today, Turkey shot down a drone today it declared was Russian. We noted the similarity of the downed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to similar Russian drone brought down by the Ukrainian army in eastern Ukraine last year.

Now has obtained information that the drone may be a new secret variation of past drones of Russian make.

Oryx Blog suggests that the UAVs found in both Syria and Ukraine were a hitherto unseen new development from the Orlan-10.

The Russian Defense Ministry, which has in the past admitted the use of its drones in Syria, immediately issued a statement that "all the UAVs of the Russian group of Aerospace Forces are functioning in the planned regimen," reported -- implying no Russian drone was shot down.

Col. Gen. Andrei Kartapolov, head of the Chief Operations Division of the Russian General Staff later emphasized at a news briefing (translation by The Interpreter):

"All our UAVs are either on mission in the regions or at the air base. Whose downed UAV it is -- either guess or figure it out for yourselves," he said. determined, however that the UAV was in fact a modification of the Orlan-30 which had just been successfully tested in Russia. The Orlan is manufactured by the Special Technologcy Center (STTs). asked STTs if this was their drone, and got a reply from Aleksei Kristman, a representative of STTs, who said the downed drone was "designed without his company's involvement."

"That is definitely not an Orlan in the photo. The dimensions, the construction and the load are completely different," he told

But a source in the Russian defense industry identified the UA as Russian.

"This UAV is of Russian make. It is a secret design, and you will not find reference to it in the media."

He said the downed drone indeed look like it came from the Orlan family, but had a number of distinctions. He also said "other Russian agencies" besides the Defense Ministry were using the UAV, i.e. intelligence. The Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) declined to comment to

Denis Fedutinov, an expert on unmanned aviation commented on the UAV models for, noting that Russia has never  officially specified what kind of drones it is using in Syria:

If you are speaking about the Russian Defense Ministry, I can surmise that our military use several types of UAVs in Syria. These are vehicles of a minor class Aileron-3SV or a heavier complex, the Orlan 10."
"Before this incident, pictures of UAVs downed in Syria appeared on social media, particularly of the same Aileron-3SV. Meanwhile, it cannot be excluded that we are using vehicles of a more major class, for example, the Forpost."

The Russian Defense Ministry purchased 34 Aileron - 3SV drones from the Kazan-based company Enix in a $2.8 million contract last year, UPI reported.

He also noted that it was not certain the drone was shot down; it could have crashed on its own due to operator error or technical malfunctions common not only to Russian but American drones. It is rather hard to shoot down a small drone unless it follows the same route, he added. The Syrian Army also has drones so it is not clear if it was in fact in Russia's arsenal:

"The Pchela UVA systems and likely UAVs from the Aileron family have been delivered to the Syrians in the past, so it cannot be ruled out that this UAV was in fact used by the Syrians."

Kartapolov's carefully-worded denials could imply either that the drone was given to Syria by Russia or was an American drone.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Claims That Russian Jets Mistakenly Struck Regime Positions Near Homs Yesterday

NOW Lebanon reports that anti-regime media are claiming that Russian jets have mistakenly bombed Syrian Arab Army positions to the north of Homs.

NOW cites reports from Alaraby Aljadeed and Al-Souria Net claiming that bombs fell yesterday on several regime checkpoints and military bases, including the large Mulouk checkpoint, just south of rebel-held Talbiseh.

Pro-rebel Al-Souria Net went into details on the purported Russian airstrikes on Syrian regime positions, reporting that the bombing of the Mulouk checkpoint “caused the death of two colonels and six privates.”

“[Other military personnel] were injured,” the correspondent added.

He went on to cite eye witness accounts as saying that the erroneous strikes had also targeted “the Mukhtariya checkpoints, Kafr Nan, Al-Nijmeh, the Brigade 26 [base], the Al-Felastini checkpoint, [the village of] Aatoun and [its] electricity station and Military college, as well as Shiite-majority-populated locations in the area around Al-Dar al-Kabirah and Teir Maalah.”

A Homs-based activist, calling himself Mohammed al-Sibai, told the outlet that the mistaken strikes had happened because of the proximity of the various locations to the opposition-controlled areas the planes had intended to bomb.

The alleged friendly fire incidents came as the Syrian government on Thursday launched a fierce assault north of Homs in a bid to clear to the M5 highway leading north to Hama.

As we reported earlier this afternoon, Russian jets have been striking rebel-held towns in this very area, including Talbiseh, in attacks that have caused heavy civilian casualties.


Pro-regime sources deny the claims.

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Dagestanti Imam Atajev Arrested in Germany on Charges of Recruiting for ISIS
A Dagestani imam supporting ISIS has been arrested in Germany on terrorism charges.

According to a report from Joanna Paraszczuk at Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe:

The suspect is Gadzhimurad K., better known as Murad Atajev. He was detained on October 14

A well-known figure in the Russian-language pro-jihadi world, the 30-year-old Atajev is a Russian national from Daghestan who is the imam of a Russian-speaking mosque in Berlin.

A joint statement from the Berlin prosecutor's office and the police said that Atajev was suspected of recruiting IS supporters and militants via the Internet, according to Deutsche Welle

The Daghestani is also suspected of purchasing military equipment, including rifle scopes and night-vision devices, for militant groups in Syria.

The Russian state-run news outlet RIA Novosti quoted a representative of the Berlin prosecutor's office as saying that Atajev was "accused of recruiting young people, mostly of Chechen origin, who were worshippers in his mosque, and also via social networks to send them to Syria to fight alongside IS."

RIA Novosti quoted a Berlin law-enforcer giving the name only of "Murat A."

Berlin police arrested Atajev in May after he gave an interview to, an independent Russian web site based in Latvia, calling himself an "information aggregator" for ISIS.


Photo of Atajev (center) taken from his VKontakte page about the raid in May, via Meduza.

As Paraszczuk notes, Atajev had maintained a number of social media accounts including @AtajevWitness on Twitter which as of this writing is still live although Twitter has banned his accounts in the past. A half dozen other Twitter accounts also bear the same title "Atajev Witness" and variations of the account name.

His last posts on Twitter were on October 13, saying sources close to ISIS reported that ISIS had seized control of the Zanubia factory in Deir ez-Zor, Syria near the gates of the military airfield.

He also had a pinned tweet on October 8 announcing his Telegram account, but the link is now dead. Atajev was also previously connected to ShamToday, a media group run by Russian-speaking IS militants close to IS military commander Tarkhan Batirashvili (aka Umar al-Shishani), says Paraszczuk.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Heavy Civilian Casualties After Russian Jets Bomb Towns In Northern Homs

There are reports of heavy civilian casualties after Russian jets bombed three rebel-held towns in the Homs province this morning. 

Three towns, just north of the regime-held city of Homs, were struck: Teir Maaleh, al-Ghantu and Talbiseh.


This video shows this morning's attack on Talbiseh, which has been struck several times already by Russian jets since the start of the air offensive on September 30.

Air strike in al-Ghantu:

This video shows residents of Teir Maaleh attempting to rescue those trapped after the Russian air strike this morning:

The Syrian Local Coordination Committees report that at least 11 civilians were killed, including one child.

The names of the dead have been published on the LCC Facebook page.

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Drone Shot Down In Turkey Identical To Russian Type Downed In Ukraine Last Year

The unmanned aerial vehicle downed by the Turkish Air Force near the Syrian border this morning bears a striking resemblance to a drone that was brought down in eastern Ukraine last year.

Reuters reports that a US official has told the news agency that Washington suspects the drone is of Russian origin.

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) published photos of the wreckage of a drone brought down in Ukraine on May 28, 2014:




Certainly the resemblance between the two is striking.

As Oryx Blog reported this summer, another similar drone crashed on July 20, 2015, near the village of Ruveysli in Syria.


The set of twelve cameras carried in the belly of the drone is designed to produce detailed, 3D maps of the battlefield.


When the SBU announced the downing of the drone last summer, they claimed that it was a Russian Orlan-10.

However the Orlan-10 has some marked differences in appearance, most notably the tail and engine housing:


Oryx Blog suggests that the UAVs found in both Syria and Ukraine are a new development from the Orlan-10, the precise technical details of which remain unknown.

Turkey's Hürriyet newspaper reports that the Turkish General Staff have claimed that the UAV was shot down after three warnings were issued:

“Today, an aerial vehicle of unknown nationality was detected inside our airspace on the Syrian border, and when it continued its movement despite being warned three times, our aircraft on patrol mission on the border fired and shot down the vehicle within the rules of engagement,” the statement posted on the Turkish General Staff’s official website read.

“The Turkish Armed Forces is executing its tasks with determination within the rules of engagement,” the military added in the statement.

Russia has issued a denial, claiming that all of their military aircraft in Syria, including UAVs have been accounted for.

-- Pierre Vaux