LIVE UPDATES: Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) reports that fellow servicemen confirmed the death of a 6th Russian soldier in Syria, but his widow denies he was killed there and the Kremlin won’t confirm.
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
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Conflict Intelligence Team, a group of Russian bloggers and military experts analyzing the wars in Ukraine and Syria, have reported that in February 2016, a Russian soldier who had been killed in battle in Syria was buried in Russia.
He was Sergei Chupov, a soldier of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops (VV MVD) who had served in the Soviet war in Afghanistan and two wars in Chechnya with the rank of Major although his role in Russia’s military intervention in Syria was not clear. Both Chupov’s widow and the Kremlin have denied that he was in Syria.
On March 17, President Vladimir Putin confirmed 4 combat deaths in Syria during an awards ceremony and a fifth had been confirmed earlier, although claimed a suicide.
In CIT’s report (in English and Russian), there are a number of references to posts on VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, the Russian version of Classmates, where various users state that Chopov died in Syria.
Three fellow soldiers comment on his death: Radik Belov, from the 101st Special Brigade of the Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops (VV MVD) who was under Chupov’s command in 1995 in the first Chechen war; Aleksandr Voronichev, who knew Chupov from the late 1980s when they both served in the 56th Brigade in Afghanistan, and Sergei Saprykin, an acting spetsnaz officer in the VV MVD. All three said he died in Syria; Saprykin added the detail that it was from a shrapnel wound. None of them would speak to reporters.
RBC researched Chupov’s background. He was born January 6, 1965 which would make him 51 years old at the time of his death and account for how he could serve in both the Afghan war, two Chechen wars, and then the war in Syria. He was in the 56th Separate Guard Paratroopers Brigade in Afghanistan and saw combat there; after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan he served in the VV MVD (unit No. 3670 in Alma-Ata Region).
One source said that Chupov left service in the 101st and 46th brigades and went on a military pension in the mid-2000s. But as Valentina Melnikova, the executive secretary of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers explained to RBC, nothing prevents a person who has left service in the Internal Troops from later signing a contract and returning to service.
Sergei Krivenko, another army expert at the civic group Citizen and Army said that the only barrier to such contract service would be the state of one’s health. If he was in good health, despite his age, he could sign on with the Defense Ministry or the Interior Ministry which in recent years make up their troops increasingly on the basis of contracts.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The following headlines were taken from 7:40 Na Perrone, Svoboda, Gazeta, RIA Novosti, Chronicle of Current Events, Facebook, Sea News
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— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick