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Russian Mercenaries Killed in Syrian Explosion: Report

The fighters were employed by a private contractor with links to the Kremlin, muckraking Russian paper claims.

6 November 2018

Six mercenaries working for the secretive Russian Wagner Group military contractor were killed in an explosion at a military base in Syria, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported yesterday.


Citing a source in Syrian, Novaya Gazeta said 11 people died Sunday in the explosion at a former police building used by the Syrian army, assisted by Russian “military advisers.”


Novaya Gazeta and foreign sources have reported on the presence of Wagner Group mercenaries in Syria and eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin acknowledges that Russian citizens have volunteered to fight in those conflicts but denies any links to Wagner, Balkan Insight wrote last month, after the Ukrainian Security Service published the names of 206 individuals it claimed had worked for Wagner.


Dozens of Wagner fighters were reportedly killed in a series of U.S. airstrikes and artillery attacks in Syria last February, The Moscow Times reports.



Wagner mercenaries were also reported to have fought with pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, mainly in 2014-2015, according to the Ukrainian news site 112.


In 2017, the United States added Wagner to its list of sanctioned entities and individuals because of the group’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict.


As the BBC reported, hard facts about Wagner are thin on the ground. The company has been linked to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin is under indictment in the United States for his alleged role in trying to influence the 2016 presidential election.


Russian media has reported that the man identified in U.S. sanctions as its founder and leader, Dmitry Utkin, previously served in Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.



  • A military analyst reportedly arrested in Russia on a treason charge last week had researched the Wagner Group and other private military contractors, according to Meduza.


  • Last month a basket containing a severed ram’s head was left at the Novaya Gazeta office with a note saying "To Novaya Gazeta's chief editor with greetings to you and [Denis] Korotkov." Korotkov was also sent a funeral wreath with a note calling him a traitor. He has reported on Prigozhin and also revealed personal information about Russian military pilots serving in Syria, RFE/RL reported.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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