Russian mercenaries accused of torturing and decapitating a deserter from the Syrian army

Three recently released videos have allowed "Novaya Gazeta" to continue an investigation started in 2017. The Russian newspaper formally identifies one of the four torturers of a Syrian soldier, as a member of the company Wagner.

Time to Reading 4 min.

In June 2017, after the appearance on the Internet of a video showing armed, Russian-speaking men torturing a man in Syria, doubts remained. The survey published Wednesday, November 20 by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta sweeps these interrogations: the four fighters whom one sees pursuing on a man then on his corpse are indeed mercenaries of the private military company Wagner; one of them has even been identified by journalists.

The images of 2017 showed fighters hitting a man on the ground with mass and foot. The executioners spoke and joked in Russian, without accent, but no element allowed to identify them, no face appeared in front of the camera.

During the month of November, three other videos of the same scene were put online, allowing Novaya Gazeta to continue his investigation. It shows the men trying laboriously, while continuing to joke, cut off the head of the victim with a knife. Another tries to cut his arms with the edge of a shovel. "Maniacs"says one of the fighters, when the other counsels: "Leave his legs, we'll hang him by the legs. " The last sequence shows the victim hung by the feet, without head or arm, sprinkled with gasoline and finally in flames, without ceasing the jokes on the "Barbecue" in preparation for.

On the Al-Chaer oil site

In early November, the Syrian opposition site Jesr Press, reputedly reliable, had identified the victim as Mohammed Taha Ismail Al-Abdullah, a Syrian born in Deir ez-Zor in 1986, who had fled the civil war in his country before returning in 2017, to be incorporated by force in the army of Bashar Al-Assad. He reportedly tried to desert but was captured.

On the images, only one of the executioners briefly shows the entirety of his face. Using a facial recognition program, Novaya Gazeta found on the Russian social networks several images corresponding to a certain "Stanislav D." (that journalists do not name, out of respect for his family), before getting his hands on a copy of his passport and, especially, on his Engagement documents at Wagner, the most famous mercenary company. Before that, the man was a policeman in the Russian city of Stavropol.

According to several Arabic-speaking sources, the images were shot on the Al-Chaer oil site, north of Palmyra, reinforcing the hypothesis of Wagner's involvement. The firm fought ISIS forces there in the spring of 2017, according to a contract published by the Associated Press between Evro Polis, a Wagner company, and the Syrian General Petroleum Corp. This guaranteed the Russians 25% of the profits of the oil field.


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