Three Russian mercenaries are killed in Syria, and they're not from the PMC you've heard of
The Russian private military company “Shchit” (Shield) suffered its first losses last month in Syria. According to a new report by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, three Shield mercenaries were killed on June 15. Journalists have identified two of the men as 32-year-old Alexey L. from Perm and 42-year-old Pyotr Sh. from Khakassia.
The circumstances of their deaths remain unverified. The fatal battle reportedly occurred roughly 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the Tvenan gas field in central Syria, where terrorists supposedly exploded a vehicle and later opened mortar fire, when Shield mercenaries came out to investigate the burning car.
According to Novaya Gazeta, the first reports about the Shield PMC operating in Syria started in 2018. The company has supposedly been hired to guard several installations owned by “Stroytransgaz,” which belongs to the Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko. Shield mercenaries are not believed to have participated in joint command operations. Journalists say roughly 25 to 30 mercenaries guard each installation, with assignments lasting three months. Last year, these mercenaries reportedly earned 180,000 rubles ($2,835) a month, but that salary has now fallen to 120,000 rubles ($1,890).
Novaya Gazeta also points out that Stroytransgaz’s official website designates Syria as a country where it does business, but the company offers no contact information in Damascus or list of ongoing local projects. According to open-source information, a few installations are known: a phosphate deposit in the Ash-Sharqiyyah region (outside Palmyra), two gas-processing plants, and a 139-kilometer (86-mile) gas pipeline. Spokespeople for Stroytransgaz declined to comment on the deaths of the Shield mercenaries, telling Novaya Gazeta that the company was in no way involved.
According to Novaya Gazeta, the Shield private military company is based outside Moscow in the town of Kubinka, located near the 45th Special Forces Airborne Brigade. Journalists say veterans of this unit work as managers for Shield. One of these men, Evgeny Sidorov, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2014 for organizing mercenary activity, when he sent fighters to Syria to guard oil fields.
Translation by Kevin Rothrock