By Maria Tsvetkova. MOSCOW Reuters - About men working for a Kremlin-linked Russian private military firm were either killed or injured in Syria last week, according to three sources familiar with the matter. A Russian military doctor said around had been killed, and a source who knows several of the fighters said the death toll was in excess of 80 men. The timing of the casualties coincided with a battle on Feb.
The clashes show Moscow is more deeply involved in Syria militarily than it has said, and risks being drawn into direct confrontation with the United States in Syria. Moscow denies sending soldiers and volunteers to Ukraine and has never confirmed that figure.
The wounded, who have been medically evacuated from Syria in the past few days, have been sent to four Russian military hospitals, according to five sources familiar with the matter. The military doctor, who works in a Moscow military hospital and was directly involved in the treatment of wounded men evacuated from Syria, said that as of Saturday evening there were more than 50 such patients in his hospital, of which around 30 percent were seriously wounded.
The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to disclose information about casualties, said at least three planeloads of injured fighters were flown to Moscow between last Friday and Monday morning.
He said they were flown back on specially equipped military cargo tomb raider hindi dubbed which can each accommodate two or three intensive care cases and several dozen less severely wounded patients.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said initial information was that five Russian citizens in the area of the battle may have been killed, but they were not Russian troops. Related Coverage. The Russian defense ministry did not respond to Reuters questions about casualties in Syria. A Kremlin spokesman, asked about Russian casualties on Thursday, said he had nothing to add to previous statements.
The Kremlin said earlier this week it had no information on any casualties. The military doctor said that a fellow doctor who flew to Syria on one of the recent medevac flights told him that around people in the Russian force had been killed as of the end of last week, and injured.
The doctor who spoke to Reuters said most of the casualties were Russian private military contractors. He said the wounded men had told him that the two units of Russian contractors involved in the battle near Deir al-Zor numbered men. Of those, there are now about who are not either dead or wounded, the wounded men had told him. Shabayev said the ward he visited contained eight patients, all evacuated from Syria in the past few days, and there were more in other wards in the hospital.
A source with ties to the Wagner organization, and who has spoken to people who took part in the Feb. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the total of about killed or injured was broadly correct. He said many of the injured had shrapnel in their bodies that was not showing up on X-rays, making treatment difficult. Other military hospitals treating the contractors are the Third Vishnevskiy hospital in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow, the Burdenko hospital near Moscow city center, and the Military Medical Academy in St.
Petersburg, according to the doctor, Shabayev, and three other people who know dead or wounded fighters. When Reuters contacted those hospitals by phone on Thursday, staff either declined to comment or denied having any patients evacuated from Syria. A Reuters reporter visited the Burdenko hospital on Wednesday and spoke briefly to patients who said they knew nothing about anyone evacuated from Syria.
Reporters also visited the hospital in Krasnogorsk, and a fifth military hospital, at Balashikha near Moscow, but were denied entry. Russia launched a military operation in Syria in September which has turned the tide of the conflict in favor of Assad. But according to people familiar with the deployment, Russia is using large numbers of the contractors in Syria because that allows Moscow to put more boots on the ground without risking regular soldiers whose deaths have to be accounted for.
The contractors, mostly ex-military, carry out missions assigned to them by the Russian military, the people familiar with the deployment said. Most are Russian citizens, though some have Ukrainian and Serbian passports.Russia In support of :.
Russia In support of:. Army of Conquest —17  Tahrir al-Sham —present Supported by :. Syrian opposition. Russian Armed Forces :. Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran :. Free Syrian Army. Army of Conquest —17 Tahrir al-Sham —present. Jund al-Aqsa Until Feb. Tahrir al-Sham: ca. The Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War began in Septemberafter an official request by the Syrian government for military aid against rebel groups.
By the end ofthe intervention produced significant gains for the Syrian government,  including the recapture of Palmyra from the Islamic State in Marchretaking the major city of Aleppo in Decemberbreaking the three-year-long siege of Deir ez-Zor and securing control over that city in November The UK -based pro-opposition   Syrian Observatory for Human Rights SOHR stated that between the initiation of the intervention in September and end of FebruaryRussian air strikes killed at least 1, civilians, including more than children.
The intervention polarized governments on predictable lines. Countries with close diplomatic and economic ties to Russia, including ChinaEgyptIraq and Belarushave generally supported the intervention; reactions of governments close to the US were usually contrary, with many governments denouncing Russia for its role in the war and highlighting its complicity in the Syrian regime's reported war crimes. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have stated that Russia is committing war crimes and deliberately targeting civilians,   the United States government has condemned the intervention and imposed economic sanctions against Russia for supporting the Syrian government,  and officials at the United Nations have condemned the Russian intervention and said Russia was committing war crimes.
The Syrian Civil War has been waged since between multiple opposition anti-government groupings and the government as well, as their local and foreign support bases.
In the north-west of the country, the main opposition faction is the al-Qaeda -affiliated al-Nusra Frontallied with numerous other smaller Islamist groups, some of which operated under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army FSA that was supported and armed by the United States and its regional allies.
Since Septemberthe U. According to Russian and Syrian officials, in Julythe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a formal request to Russia for air strikes combating international terrorismwhile laying out Syria's military problems.
Russian toll in Syria battle was 300 killed and wounded: sources
In AugustRussia began to send Russian-operated warplanes, T tanks and artillery, as well as combat troops to an airbase near the port city of Latakia in Syria.
On 26 Augusta treaty was signed between Russia and Syria that stipulated terms and conditions of use by Russia of Syria's Hmeimim airport, free of charge and with no time limit. Embassy in Baghdad and requested that any United States forces in the targeted area in Syria leave immediately.While the US coalition of 50 countries that are supposedly fighting against terrorism in Syria is yet to show proof that it is doing so for the last 5 years, the Russian Special Forces on the ground published a rare footage of their operations which led to the defeat of Daesh terrorists, and the recovery of Aleppo sans air-power in the last 2 months.
The US black propaganda of constantly blaming all terror bombings against Aleppo civilian targets to the Russian air sorties necessitated this type of covert operations on the ground.
The reportage is focused on a commander of a SOF unit regularly operating in Syria, Colonel Vadim, whose first name might well be fictitious, while his last name is not disclosed at all. Based on his words, the primary objectives of the operations carried out by his unit in this Middle Eastern country can be summarized as follows:.
Every officer is being prepared to combat in basically any areas deserts, forests, mountains, waterany weather conditions and in any season. Wall strong. Wait, who decides to attack.Russian Special Forces in Syria - 2016 - HD
Will meet from ambush. Our right on target. Three more in the truck. Only went….
Two blows, back on his feet and run. Further work for snipers. Cameras on helmets, body armor wound with masking tape. The aim of Russian Special Forces — militants-radicals. Many of the militants in the Middle East, from Central Asia former Soviet republicsat any time can return to us. A real fight.
The footage of the thermal imager, our talking. On the other side of the 10 terrorists of ISIL, one can see professionals, stretched out on the flank.
On the front flank of the three, I think it is not moving. The balls, which are stuffed with plastic explosive detonating cord, was placed in a convenient place for the execution of blasting. Cut the detonating cord to defuse the explosive device. On the helmet— the trail of debris.
Mine exploded twenty feet away. On the table— the flag of their airborne VDVwhere he started. The man in front of laptop — the commander of Special Forces of the Ministry of defense of Russia. For any information about Russian Colonel, the intelligence of ISIS is willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars. How many employees, what kind of car he goes with, how much speed it operates, what streets he moves.
During the whole trip— and that two or three months, and six months or no connection with family. Of those with whom you can communicate— command and a signaler in the conventional staff.
The soldiers almost all the time in the rear of the terroristsand because any radiation from cell phones, tablets, laptops to the Internet— a beacon to the enemy. The reconnaissance of an area often takes a matter of hours. We received information that he moved among its divisions on the car with security.
Went to the section of road in the night, organized the ambush. Waited two nights.Recordings have emerged in which Russian mercenaries subjected to a joint U.
The source said that the recorded phone calls were made by personnel from CHVK Wagner, a Russian private military company. The incident in question occurred on the night of February 7 and early morning of February 8, when Syrian government forces—backed by Russian mercenaries employed by CHVK Wagner—attempted to capture an oil refinery near the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor.
After Russian personnel came into contact with American troops stationed there, the U. In the first audio clip, a man says, "One squadron fucking lost people So three squadrons took a beating.
The man explains that American forces used artillery and helicopter gunships to repel the assault. Nothing at all, I'm not even talking about shoulder-fired SAMs or anything like that….
They tore us to pieces, put us through hell," he says. The speaker is also critical of the Russian government's response to the incident, saying, "They beat our asses like we were little pieces of shit Nobody gives a fuck about us. In a second clip, a man explains that the battle quickly descended into a massacre as the Russians lost all armored support. In the third clip, a man can be heard explaining the Russian convoy was a few hundred meters away from target when the American forces raised their flag and hit the Russians with a heavy artillery barrage, wiping out the first column instantly.
It's bullshit, some people can't even be fucking ID'ed, too many people there. It has been reported that up to Russians may have died in the strikes. The Kremlin initially denied all reports of Russians being involved in the incident.
However, in recent days, Russia's foreign ministry has acknowledged that "several dozen" Russians were killed or wounded. A foreign ministry report said, "Russian service members did not take part in any capacity, and Russian military equipment was not used.Syrian Civil War. Sudanese Revolution  Venezuelan presidential crisis security only . Some have described it as a private military company or a private military contracting agencywhose contractors have reportedly taken part in various conflicts, including operations in the Syrian Civil War on the side of the Syrian government as well as, from untilin the War in Donbass in Ukraine aiding the separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics.
The same year, senior Moran Security Group managers were involved in setting up a Hong Kong -based  organization Slavonic Corps that headhunted contractors to "protect oil fields and pipelines" in Syria.
The Wagner Group itself first showed up in along with Utkin in the Luhansk region of Ukraine. A few days after, the Kremlin spokesman confirmed the presence of Dmitry Utkin at the reception, which was organised for those who had been awarded the Order of Courage and the title Hero of the Russian Federation. Besides confirming his presence, the spokesman could only say Utkin was from the Novgorod Region and that he indeed received the award, but could not say for what except that it was presumably for courage.
Peskov stated he was not aware how famous Utkin was. In earlyWagner had a membership of 1,  which later rose to 5, by August and 6, by December The pay of Wagner private military contractors PMCswho are usually retired regular Russian servicemen aged between 35 and 55,  is estimated to be between 80, andRussian rubles a month. When new PMC recruits arrive at the training camp, they are no longer allowed to use social network services and other Internet resources.
Company employees are not allowed to post photos, texts, audio and video recordings or any other information on the Internet that was obtained during their training. They are also not allowed to tell anyone their location, whether they are in Russia or another country.
Mobile phones, tablets and other means of communication are left with the company and issued at a certain time with the permission of their commander. Passports and other documents are surrendered and in return company employees receive a nameless dog tag with a personal number. The company only accepts new recruits if a year confidentiality agreement is established and in case of a breach of the confidentiality the company reserves the right to terminate the employee's contract without paying a fee.
After this, he left to be treated. Prigozhin, who was sanctioned by the United States Department of the Treasury in December for Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict  denied any communication with Wagner. Russian and some Western observers, as well as a few people who have been personally involved with the Wagner Group, believe that the organization does not actually exist as a private military company and is but a myth created by Russian propaganda.
They believe it is in reality a disguised branch of the Russian MoD that ultimately reports to the Russian government. Private military companies are not legally allowed in Russia; nevertheless a number of them appear to have been operating in Russia, and in April Vladimir Putin, then Russian prime minister, speaking in the State Duma endorsed an idea of setting up PMCs in Russia.
In an interview in DecemberRussian President Putin said, in regard to Wagner PMCs operating in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere, that "everyone should remain within the legal framework" and that if the Wagner group was violating the law, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office "should provide a legal assessment".
What are Russian special operations forces doing in Idlib?
But, according to Putin, if they did not violate Russian law, they had the right to work and promote their business interests abroad. The president also denied allegations that Yevgeny Prigozhin had been directing Wagner's activities. In latea so-called Wagner code of honor was revealed that lists ten commandments for Wagner's PMCs to follow.
These include, among others, to protect the interests of Russia always and everywhere, to value the honor of a Russian soldier, to fight not for money, but from the principle of winning always and everywhere.
Following the deployment of its contractors between andto Sudan,  the Central African Republic,  Madagascar,  Libya  and Mozambique,  the Wagner Group had offices in 20 African countries, including Eswatini, Lesotho and Botswana, by the end of Insurgency in the North Caucasus  Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War. It is also a structural and an independent unit of the Armed Forces. The first units of what would become the Special Operations Forces were transferred from the GRU in as part of the continuing Russian military reform. On 26 FebruaryRussian President Vladimir Putin decreed that 27 February be the Day of the SOF, according to multiple Russian official news agencies  albeit not acknowledged formallyto mark the establishment of Russian control over the building of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in SimferopolUkraine in February The Special Operation Forces are a highly mobile, well-trained and equipped, constant combat prepared special operations force of the Russian Ministry of Defense, designed to perform specific tasks in order to protect the interests of the Russian Federation with application of military force, by necessityboth within the country and abroad, in peacetime and in wartime.
The Russian Ministry of Defense defines the term "special operation" as "methods and ways of fighting not characteristic of conventional forces: reconnaissance and sabotagesubversion and seditioncounter-terrorismcounter-sabotage, counterintelligenceguerrillacounter-guerrilla and other activities".
The SOF have been primarily involved in Syriaconducting target acquisition for Russian Air Force combat planes conducting airstrikes and Russian Navy sea-launched cruise missile strikes, serving as military advisors training Syrian government troops, seek and destroying critical enemy objects, disruption behind enemy lines through ambushes, high value targeted assassinations and retaliation strikes against select groups of fighters.
It was reported that Colonel Oleg Martianov, who later became a member of the board of the Military-Industrial Commission, was one of the founders and first commander of the SOF from to Inthe Special Operations Directorate was reorganized as Special Operations Command, which was followed by plans to upscale the Forces manpower up to 9 special purpose brigades.
While speaking to foreign military attaches in Moscowhe said: "After reviewing the practice of the formation, training and the use of special operations forces in the leading countries of the world, Russia's Defense Ministry has also begun to create them A corresponding command was created, which is engaged in planning work and implements plan of training of the Armed Forces A set of documents has already been elaborated to determine the direction of development, methods of training and application of these forces".
On 15 Marchaccording to Russian media reports, creation of the Special Operations Center of the Ministry of Defense for around professional soldiers began in the suburban village of Kubinka Formation of the Center was scheduled to be completed by the end of At the end of Aprilunits of the Special Operations Forces conducted a special tactics exercise at Elbrus mountains at an altitude of 4, meters.
The exercise was dedicated to practice transportation of one of the SSO units by military transport aviation and army aviation, as well as air insertion of personnel and cargo into target area.
During peacetime, the SOF may also be called in to execute certain specialised homeland security operations. The SOF also conducted counter-terrorism and special operations during the insurgency in the North Caucasus region disguised as other Spetsnaz units. On 2 Decemberan unnamed mountain with a height of 3, meters located on the Sudor ridge in the Irafsky region of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alaniawas named "Mountain of Special Operations Forces".
In late Februaryan unknown number of SOF operators alongside other Russian troops entered Crimea disguised as "little green men" and captured the Crimean Parliament and also began the blockading and capturing of other significant and strategic sites across the peninsula.
SOF combat operations in Syria, which began covertly in late  became more visible by January with the successful Latakia offensiveplayed a crucial role in the Palmyra offensiveprovided support to the Syrian Army attempting the recapturing of Raqqarepelling the ISIL offensive on Palmyra and throughout the Syrian push for Aleppo in the same year. Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu later personally thanked all the military personnel involved for their exemplary performance of the task.
While official numbers are classified, between the Special Purpose Center "Senezh" and the headquarters at the Special Operations Center "Kubinka-2", there are approximately 2, to 2, total personnel. Additionally, the command also has supporting elements providing combat support and combat service support functions. Furthermore, there is also a dedicated special aviation brigade that directly controls combat aviation assets at Torzhokand a squadron of Ilyushin Il transport aircraft at the Migalovo airfield near Tver.
The command reached full operational capability in and also serves as the central command authority for the entire SOF structure of which is subordinate directly to the General Staff.
The training of the officer recruit special operators is carried out in the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School — RVVDKU department of special and military intelligence and the department of the use of special forces and the Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School — NVVKU department of special intelligence and the chair of the special reconnaissance and airborne training.Quoting sources from the Syrian opposition, the news agency said that the Russian troops were sent in after Syrian regime forces failed to advance against the rebels.
Whether Russia has indeed deployed special forces on the ground to fight in northwest Syria is difficult to determine with absolute certainty, but it is quite clear that the defence ministry has had to boost Russian presence on the ground in recent months.
Whenever reports on the alleged presence of Russian special forces operating in Syria appear, they tend to be highly speculative and based on data that is semi-official or hard to verify, often posted on blogs and social media. The details of Russian military presence are seldom officially disclosed for operational reasons.
Rare Footage of Russian Special Forces in Syria
Identifying Russian security personnel has also proven difficult for one more reason: They often tend to be confused with contractors from private military companies PMCs. They reportedly directed aircraft to targets and countered enemy fire with sniper rifles, anti-tank missiles and mortars on their own by using counter-battery radars.
This statement is at the very least misleading: It is unthinkable that any employees of a Russian PMC could carry out any tasks close to the battlefield — or even train local units at the rear — without coordinating their activities with Russian national security, defence and law enforcement agencies. There appears to be enough evidence to confirm that Russian fighters — whether members of the Russian military or a PMC — are present at the front lines in Idlib and Hama and are taking part in the fighting.
The presence of military police and military advisors, which Moscow officially acknowledges, has provided a cover for other forces to operate, including special operations. It has also been known that Russian officers have staffed Syrian army units devastated by desertion, including the 5th Corps which has now been deployed to Hama and Idlib.
Currently, the Assad regime seeks to establish control over the M4 and M5 highways running through Idlib so that it can open the flow traffic between Aleppo, Damascus and Latakia. Information on their presence has been purposely kept secret not only because of counterintelligence considerations but also because of possible domestic sensitivities.
If their presence in Syria is revealed, this could anger the Russian public, which in its majority wants the country to end its military involvement in Syria. The ultimate goal of the Kremlin is to help regime forces with aerial cover and Russian reinforcements advance against the opposition and to try to corner and fragment it while appearing to negotiate truces with Turkey.
At the same time, it is trying to gain more influence and say within the regime and its security structures, so at the end of this conflict, it emerges as the kingmaker in Syria. Anton Mardasov. Anton Mardasov is a military affairs expert and journalist focusing on Syria, Iraq and extremist organisations. The evidence Whenever reports on the alleged presence of Russian special forces operating in Syria appear, they tend to be highly speculative and based on data that is semi-official or hard to verify, often posted on blogs and social media.
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