A large number of Russian media outlets have published reports that four officers of the Special Forces counter-terrorism directorate of Russia’s FSB have been killed in Syria.
The reports began to appear on Sunday, February 2. It was first reported by the Telegram channel “Special Forces Channel”, which specializes in covering the activity of Russia’s security forces. The special forces in question were reportedly two pairs of Russian snipers who were meant to cooperate with Syrian government troops.
The channel reported that on Saturday, February 1, a vehicle with FSB officers was hit by a mortar in the vicinity of Aleppo. Another Telegram channel then reported that the vehicle had driven over a landmine, after which the Russians entered into combat with terrorists and died with their weapons in hand.
All of the officers had been active in Syria as part of a consolidated unit responsible for anti-terrorist missions. The bodies of the four Russian commandos’ were initially in the possession of the Syrian opposition, but were left behind when they retreated, Kommersant reports, citing a source. The newspaper also learned that the special forces had been killed by a landmine. The incident took place near the town of Zahraa, which lies to the north-west of Aleppo. The victims were from the FSB Special Forces Smerch (“Tornado”) and Kavkaz (“Caucasus”) directorates. They were snipers, on their way to reinforce the Syrian divisions.
The Telegram channels mentioned the ranks, names and surnames of the deceased officers: Major Bulat Akhmatyanov, Lieutenant Vsevolod , Major Ruslan Gimadiev and Captain Dmitry Minov .
According to unconfirmed reports, the vehicle transporting the Russian snipers was attacked by troops from one of the pro-Turkish armed groups active in the region, which had a significant numerical advantage. One theory states that the Russian officers died because they were literally abandoned by the retreating Syrian government forces. The channel Reverse Side of the Medal published photographs of the Russian officers.
Syrian government forces are currently carrying out an offensive against the opposition to the west of Aleppo. The opposition forces are, however, actively supported by Turkey. Turkish President Recep Erdogan said that Turkish soldiers had been killed on Sunday when their observation point was bombarded by Syrian troops. According to the Turkish President, the Turkish army responded by attacking the Syrian government forces’ positions.
It is quite possible that Russian troops, including special forces, are fighting alongside the Syrian government forces that are active in the region.
Russian-Turkish relations have recently deteriorated once again. Despite the proclaimed friendship between Putin and Erdogan, Ankara is openly accusing Russia of two serious violations – of sending mercenaries to Libya to support Khalifa Haftar, and of breaching the peace agreements in Syria, where, according to Turkey, Syrian government forces are attacking the opposition with the direct support of the Russian military.
In the wake of the sharp deterioration in relations with Russia, Erdogan visited Kyiv, and shortly thereafter said that Turkey considers Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula illegal.