Russia's dead mercenaries in Syria: unofficial evidence mounts as Moscow makes a reluctant admission
Ekho Moskvy has identified yet another Russian mercenary who died in the recent U.S. airstrikes against pro-Assad militants in Syria. Four people who knew Oleg Tereshchenko confirmed to the radio station that he perished in Deir ez-Zor on February 7. Tereshchenko’s friends say roughly 200 people died in the attack. Open-source investigators at the Conflict Intelligence Team have identified another eight Russians who were killed in the airstrikes.
Wait — how many Russians died in Deir ez-Zor?
The estimates vary from a few dozen to more than two hundred. Moscow isn’t making the guessing game any easier. After initially denying that it knew anything about Russians killed in the U.S. airstrikes, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that five Russian citizens may have died in the attack, adding that none of them was a Russian soldier. Western and Russian reporters believe the Russian combatants were mercenaries fighting in the “Wagner” private military company, though some observers say the PMC acts as a front for the Kremlin’s clandestine armed operations. Russia’s Defense Ministry denies that it lost any personnel in the U.S. attack.
What's the Russian state media have to say about this?
On the evening of February 15, the news agency Reuters published a storyciting three sources who claim that the February 7 U.S. airstrikes killed 100 and wounded 200 mercenaries working for the “Wagner” PMC. The state-run news outlet Vesti.ru promptly shared a summary of the report, which then disappeared hours later. When you try to view the story now, you’re greeted by an “Error 404: Requested document not found” message.