Censor.NET reports referring to an article by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick for The Daily Beast.
"Unlike the war in Ukraine, where the Kremlin pretends it is only local separatists who die in combat despite hundreds of Russian soldiers reportedly killed there, in Syria, deaths are admitted and soldiers celebrated as heroes, given posthumous awards," the article notes.
"But the Kremlin is careful to describe the circumstances of their deaths as not in combat per se - since officially, there are no Russian boots on the ground," the author says.
The publication offers a list of the Russian soldiers confirmed as having died in Syria. "One is reported to have committed suicide, nine killed "while performing military assignments" and two in a helicopter crash," the article reads.
The list includes Vadim Kostenko, Fedor Zhuravlev, Oleg Peshkov, Alexander Pozynich, Ivan Cheremisin, Alexander Prokhorenko, Andrey Okladnikov, Viktor Pankov, Anton Yergin, Andrey Timoshenkov, and Mikhail Shirokopoyas.
According to the author, independent media and bloggers have found a number of others killed in Syria.
"Vadim Tumakov, a contractor from Orenburg said to be from the Interior Ministry's Internal Troops, died "under unknown circumstances"," the article notes. Vasily Panchenkov, head of the press office of the Interior Troops, said Tumakov had served in the forces as a cook and a supply officer from 2002-2004 and was discharged afterwards.
"But the local news site Orenday said that one Vadim Tumakov from the Sol-Ilets city district was killed in battle "liberating Syria from ISIL terrorist"," the author remarks.
In March, the St. Petersburg news site Fontanka.ru published an article on mercenaries in Russia's Wars, claiming Russia's losses of soldiers in Syria "numbered in the dozens." Its author Denis Korotkov followed up on a number of past stories on mercenaries in the Slavonic Corps, a private military contractor set up in 2013. "Many Slavonic Corps fighters later joined another PMC called "Wagner"," the publication reads.
"A number of Wagner contractors who had fought in east Ukraine transferred to Syria, Fontanka reported last year. Korotkov was able to find details for three contractors killed in Syria, although he believes there are many more," Fitzpatrick says.
Thomas Grove, a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal who interviewed Korotkov, pointed out that Korotkov has been the only journalist to write on Wagner. "But he also found three other sources that reported that "eight or nine" contractors from Wagner were killed in October 2015 when a mortar round hit their base in Western Syria," the article notes.
According to Fitzpatrick, the deaths of Russia's military in Syria and posthumous award ceremonies are "even part of the Kremlin's patriotic propaganda fueling the war."
"But the murky world of mercenaries cannot be acknowledged by the Russian military as long as such contractors are illegal. And Russia would likely prefer to keep it this way to have as much "plausible deniability" as possible in Syria," the author concludes.
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