Russian forces in Syria have suffered losses since late January three times higher than the official toll, Censor.NET reports citing Reuters.
Eighteen Russian citizens have been killed since Jan. 29 - a period that coincided with intense fighting to recapture the city of Palmyra from the Islamic State group.
The Russian defense ministry has publicly reported only five servicemen's deaths in Syria over the same period, and its officials' statements have not mentioned any large-scale Russian ground operations in the fight for Palmyra.
The toll was revealed in interviews with relatives and friends of the dead men, cemetery workers, local media reports of funerals and evidence collected by a group of investigative bloggers, Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT).
In each case, Reuters has independently verified information about the death by speaking to someone who knows the dead man.
The casualties since the end of January represent one of the highest tolls for the Russian contingent in Syria since the start of Moscow's military intervention 18 months ago. Most of the dead were not regular Russian soldiers but Russian civilians working as private military contractors under the orders of Russian commanders.
Moscow has not officially acknowledged the presence of the contractors in Syria.