Russian fighters of the non-existent de jure private military company (PMC) are dying in Ukraine and Syria, but are not spoiling the statistics, as the internet newspaper Fontanka.ru reported in its new investigation. According to the online resource, an accuratel list of Russian losses can be seen only in the decrees of Russian President Vladimir Putin which have not been published before.
Fontanka explains that the list refers to individuals belonging to a heavy armament infantry battalion known as “private military company Wagner”. However, such structure does not formally exist because private military companies are prohibited in Russia.
The division was formed on the basis of “Slavonic Corps”, operated in Syria in 2013 and later in the Crimea and Luhansk regions. According to Fontanka, last autumn, most efforts of the PMC were focused on Syrian territory. The media circulated the information about the death of the Commander of the Reserve Officers Division, Dmitry Utkin, with call sign “Wagner”. However, according to the sources, he is alive and kicking and is either in Syria or at a soldier training facility in Molkino, Krasnodar Krai. But, a deputy officer of Wagner, Sergey Chupov, with call sign “Chub”, was killed near Damascus last February. At that time, Russian losses allegedly started. Particularly, Fontanka knows about the death of 38-year-old Don Cossack Maksim Kolganov, near Lattakia, and a fighter, with call sign “Shlang”, fighting supposedly in the Donbas. The fighters themselves told journalists in an interview that there is a fifty-fifty chance of surviving battles in Syria. One of Fontanka’s authors, Denis Korotkov at “Echo of Petersburg”, explained that it is because the battalion often performs tasks which are unusual for the PMC.
The Head of the Conflict Intelligence Team, Ruslan Leviev, who collects information about Russians who have been killed, in turn, explained that he manages to take data about the losses with the help of personal contact with the relatives of those killed.
The exact number of killed fighters in Syria is unknown. The interviewees of Fontanka.ru talk about there being dozens. A company that entered Syria in September last year lost two-thirds of their soldiers in four months.
According to official data, during the Russian military operation in Syria, only six soldiers were killed.
Formally, there are no private military companies in Russia, as military observer Alexander Golts emphasizes.
The private military companies represent advanced technologies in the developed countries, while in Russia people are used as cannon fodder, journalist Arkady Babchenko noted.
According to Russian law, mercenarism is a criminal offense.