Valentina, mother of the Cossack Grigory Tsurkanu, who was captured by ISIS militants, told Dozhd TV that the Ministry of Defense has sent the Russian soldier’s relatives a document stating that the search for Tsurkanu has been classified.
According to Tsurkanu’s mother, the letter was sent to her in response to a request she sent to the ministry following her son’s disappearance. Dozhd says it received a copy of the document, which is signed by “Defense Ministry department chief Y. Shulgin”.
In the letter, the Defense Ministry representative notes that Tsurkanu was not a regular soldier of the Russian army, and had not been called to duty (earlier the Cossack’s relatives claimed that he was working for the Wagner private military company). According to the letter, Tsurkanu was captured by terrorists in September last year. “The bodies of state government, within the scope of their competence, are taking the corresponding measures to bring the Russian back to his homeland,” the department’s representative writes, noting that “evidence relating to specific actions being carried out by the ministry are a state secret”.
On December 17 2017, Valentina Tsurkanu told Dozhd that at the start of winter, a representative of the Wagner private military company came to her house. At that stage, the man informed her that her son had died from wounds. According to the Wagner representative, the other Russian who was captured alongside the Cossack, Roman Zabolotny, was killed. However, Tsurkanu’s mother did not believe this information, and so she sent a letter to the Defense Ministry, asking for them to clarify whether or not her son was still alive.
News that Tsurkanu and Zabolotny had been captured in Syria came out at the start of October 2017. A site related to the terrorists’ Amaq News Agency released a video clip showing the two Russians talking about their capture. The Defense Ministry denied the information that Russian soldiers had been captured by militants. On the same day, Tsurkanu’s brother Roman explained that his brother was not working for the Ministry of Defense. According to Roman, the Cossack was in Syria as a member of the Wagner private military company. One of Zabolotny’s friends told RBC that Zabolotny was also a member of the Wagner Group.
On October 5, 2017, the State Duma reported that Tsurkanu and Zabolotny had been executed. However, on November 30 Viktor Vodolatsky, deputy chair of the lower house of parliament’s committee on the CIS and former Ataman of the Don Cossack Host, told RBC that both Tsurkanu and Zabolotny are supposedly alive. The day before, the Rostov-based portal Monavista reported with reference to an unnamed source that the two Russians may come back to Russia as the result of a prisoner exchange.