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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Putin in Syria: June 23, 2016

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.
Russian Defense Ministry Denies ISIS Reports of Russian Military Killed This Week
The Russian Defense Ministry has denied that three Russian soldiers were killed in an explosion on the road to Raqqa, RBC reports.

As we reported yesterday June 22, the Amaq News Agency, a semi-official media outlet for the terrorist group ISIS, published the claims accompanied by photos purportedly taken from one of the dead soldiers' phones.
But Russia denied that the soldiers were killed. Igor Konashenkov, official spokesmen for the Russian MoD, said (translated by The Interpreter):

"All the servicemen whose photographs were published by the terrorist group ISIL, their Ukrainian 'friends,' and also the London Syrian Human Rights Observatory are alive, well and are located in the positions of their divisions."
Russia continues to refer to ISIS as "ISIL," and the reference to the "Ukrainian friends" refers to bloggers who covered the story.

Konashenkov added that the photographs were obtained from a telephone that had been stolen back in Russia:

"The only question that emerges with us is how these photographs practically simultaneously appeared on the ISIL site and the teams of Ukrainian propagandists and detractors of Russia."

Bloggers of the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) in Russia said that they had managed to establish the identity of several of the soldiers in the photographs, but they themselves said that the photos alone did not prove that the soldiers were killed.

In a statement published on their Facebook page today, CIT challenged the Russian MoD statement, noting that they were Russian citizens and not "Ukrainians" as implied. They also denied that there was any conspiracy behind the rapid appearance of the photos on their site.


Jun 24, 2016 02:02 (GMT)

CIT was able to geolocate the photos of the Russian soldiers to the 291st artillery brigade’s base in Troitskaya village, Ingushetia. They also found the destroyed vehicle in the photos was a  Kamaz-63501AT truck. But there was no evidence of human remains and CIT has not been able to conclude that the soldiers were killed.

CIT also noted that Roman Saponkov, a Russian reporter filing dispatches from the area, has denied the ISIS report of Russian soldiers killed:

He claims Assad’s troops have the same trucks and that he’d seen the destroyed Kamaz on the road even before the IS counterattack.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick of The Interpreter published an article at the Daily Beast analyzing reports of all Russian soldiers killed since the start of Russia's bombing campaign in Syria September 30 to date.

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How Many Russian Soldiers Have Died in Syria?

Since Russia began its bombing campaign in Syria on September 30, 2015, at least 12 Russian soldiers have been confirmed by the Russia Defense Ministry as killed, but independent journalists and bloggers have documented several more deaths and discovered reports of dozens more killed but not acknowledged by the government.

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Jun 24, 2016 01:21 (GMT)

Only 11 cases of deaths of Russian servicemen have been confirmed by the Kremlin; of these 1 soldier was said to commit suicide although his family and friends denied it; 8 soldiers were said to have died "performing military duties" and 2 died in a helicopter crash. The Russian military denied that ISIS shot down the helicopter.

But there have been reports of mercenaries killed -- as many as 9 or more -- related to the private military contractor known as "Wagner" after its leader's nom de guerre.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick