Fifteen more Russian mercenaries, part of the Wagner corporation, were killed in Syria today by an improvised explosive device (IED) at an arms depot for the security company. The deaths follow unconfirmed reports of scores that died during an American airstrike on a pro-Assad force assault on an oil complex held by anti-regime elements supported by the American coalition.
“Fifteen Russians working for a Russian private security company were killed in an explosion at a weapons depot of the company in Tabiya Jazira in Deir Ezzor province,” Observatory for Human Rights directory Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France-Presse. Wagner was “protecting the oil and gas fields controlled by the Syrian regime”.
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“And 23 members of al-Baqir Brigade and of the Russian security companies who were in Tabiyah Jazeera area, they were killed in an explosion of a warehouse of the Russian protection forces, where members of al-Baqir Brigade were trying to get weapons outside of the warehouse then the warehouse which was booby-trapped exploded, which killed 23 members including members of the Russian security companies, who were present in the area to advance with the gunmen loyal to the regime forces to the oil and gas fields on the eastern banks of Euphrates River, including one of the sons of Nawaf al-Bashir who leads al-Baqir Brigade,” wrote the Observatory on its website.
#Syrie "Quinze #Russes travaillant pour une société de sécurité privée russe, en charge de la protection des champs de #pétrole et de #gaz que contrôle le régime syrien, ont été tués dans l'explosion d'un dépôt d'armes de la société à Tabiya Jazira dans la province de #DeirEzzor" https://t.co/5lCtf3IlxA
— hDes Allimes Hélène (@muzahara2) February 14, 2018
The additional deaths come at a tenuous point for the Kremlin which has denied sanctioning the recent pro-Assad attack on the oilfields which resulted in Russian mercenary deaths from the American airstrike.
A source in the Russian military told Kommersant that the reason for the incident was an attempt by local “big businessmen currently supporting Bashar Assad” to seize oil and gas fields controlled by the Kurds, who are US allies. According to the source, the Russian command in Syria did not authorize an offensive against the oil fields, which was perceived as a “dangerous initiative”. The official statement of the Russian Defense Ministry said, “The reason for the incident was that the reconnaissance and search operations of the Syrian militants were not coordinated with the command of the Russian operational group,” wrote Russian state news agency TASS.
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“The state did not send these people there. Anyone going to fight for money as a mercenary exposes himself to risk, given the contract with those who invite him. This is not a contract with the Russian state. Russia has no information about it,” Director at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vitaly Naumkin told Kommersant. “On the one hand, the state turns a blind eye to their presence in Syria, on the other hand, there is a law that should bring these people to justice. They are mercenaries, and these people do not fall under the protection of the state, although the state is obliged to protect any citizen of the Russian Federation,” wrote TASS.