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Russian military police in the Syrian province of Homs. February 14, 2019

‘The UAZ was just crushed under a barrage of fire’ New details emerge about the deaths of Russian officers in Syria

Russian military police in the Syrian province of Homs. February 14, 2019
Russian military police in the Syrian province of Homs. February 14, 2019
Konstantin Machulsky / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

Three Russian officers and one Syrian military interpreter were killed on February 22 in Syria after being ambushed in the province of Deir ez-Zor. The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported today that the soldiers’ UAZ utility vehicle came under fire on a desert road between Palmira and al-Mayadeen. A column of automobiles containing 30 Russian and Syrian fighters was accompanying the officers on their way. However, immediately before the UAZ was attacked about 25 miles away from al-Mayadeen, the officers found themselves without any escort vehicles for unknown reasons.

“The Russian officers were obviously caught unawares when armed terrorists opened fire on their car. The UAZ was just crushed under a barrage of fire,” Novaya Gazeta concluded after speaking to sources who were present at the time of the attack. A major in the Russian army and the Syrian interpreter, who were sitting in the front seats of the automobile, were killed on the spot. According to Novaya Gazeta’s sources, two other passengers died a few hours later.

The newspaper reported that the ambush targeting the Russian soldiers may have been enabled by former Islamic State fighters who had laid down their arms to join the Syrian military. Novaya Gazeta’s sources said it is possible that those fighters had passed on information about the Russian convoy’s route to its attackers. Another possible source of information about the convoy’s location could be a group of pro-Iranian units stationed in al-Mayadeen.

Shortly after the attack, Russian soldiers located the positions of the terrorists in the desert and destroyed them. On March 25, the Russian Defense Ministry officially announced that “a band of more than 30 fighters who participated in an attack on a vehicle carrying Russian servicemembers has been destroyed.” The Ministry also noted that the bodies of the Russian officers killed had been transported back to Russia.

Two of the four individuals killed in the ambush have been identified. Novaya Gazeta’s sources indicated that one of them was the Syrian colonel Monzer Luis, who served as an interpreter for the Russians. The BBC Russian Service reported that 35-year-old Major Sukhrob Karimov was also killed in the attack. One of his relatives told reporters that Karimov’s parents were called to a military hospital to provide DNA samples.

Earlier this month, the Ukrainian federal legislator Dmitry Tymchuk wrote that the Russian colonel Albert Omarov, who had previously fought in the ongoing war in Ukraine, was also killed in Syria on February 22. However, on March 27, the official newspaper of the Russian military, Krasnaya Zvezda, wrote that Albert Omarov had received an award in the Russian city of Tolyatti. The newspaper did not specify on which day the colonel had been honored.

Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Hilah Kohen