11th Russian Soldier Confirmed as Killed in Combat in Syria; Marine from Kaliningrad Died from Suicide Bomb

June 20, 2016
Undated photo of Russian marine Andrei Timoshenkov posted by his widow on VKontakte, apparently taken in Syria.

LIVE UPDATES: The previous post in our Putin in Syria column can be found here.

RT Is Caught Trying To Edit Out Footage Of Incendiary Cluster Bombs On Russian Jet

Russia’s state-owned RT news channel has been caught out in an act of self-censorship as they attempted to hide footage in one of their news reports that clearly shows cluster bombs loaded onto Russian Air Force jets in Syria.

Over the weekend several observers noticed that an RT video from the Hmeemeem airbase in Latakia, Syria, showed cluster bombs loaded onto Sukhoi Su-34 bombers before takeoff.

The text around the side of the bomb canisters clearly indicates that they are RBK-500 ZAB 2.5SM dispensers – which carry incendiary submunitions.

The Russian Ministry of Defense routinely denies using such weapons despite this not being the first time they have been documented in use (both in state television footage from the airbase and videos of their use over rebel-held towns).

Today the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), a group of Russian investigative bloggers, noticed that the RT had edited the video, cutting to footage of the defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, meeting with military officials, instead of the bombs.

However by dragging the mouse along the video scrollbar, bringing up YouTube’s cached preview snapshots, one could still see the original footage at that timecode. 

We tested this earlier this morning.

Here is the preview: 

Set as default press image
2016-06-20 14:58:06

And here is what was seen when the video played at the same timecode:

Set as default press image
2016-06-20 14:58:06

But this afternoon, perhaps embarrassed by the attention this hamfisted edit attracted, RT appear to have restored the original footage:

RT offered this explanation:

The original video initially featured a close-up frame of a pilot. Shortly after publishing, that frame was cut out by an SMM editor out of concern for personnel safety. There was never any intention to censor the video. Upon reevaluation it was deemed that the frame did not pose any risks; it had since been restored and the video is up in its original cut.  

This seems unlikely, as the pilot seen in this section of the video is wearing a helmet with the visor down, so there is little chance of him being identified based on the footage. 

As the CIT notes, while Russia is not a signatory to the International Convention on Cluster Weapons, it is party to a UN convention prohibiting the use of incendiary weapons in residential areas.

— Pierre Vaux

11th Russian Soldier Confirmed as Killed in Combat in Syria; Marine from Kaliningrad Died from Suicide Bomb
A Russian soldier was injured from a vehicle packed with explosives by militants in the province of Homs, Syria, and then died of his wounds, Interfax reported.
News of the death was first discovered on social media from posts of the widow and fellow servicemen, then the Russian Ministry of Defense made an announcement (translation by The Interpreter):

On June 15 in the province of Homs, Andrei Timoshenko, a serviceman guarding the humanitarian convoy of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Hostile Parties in Syria prevented an explosion of an automobile filled with explosives from reaching an area where humanitarian aid was being handed out to the civilian population.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Timoshenkov, a sergeant, stopped the automobile packed with explosives by opening fire on it from his firearm. When the automobile being driven by a suicide bomber exploded, Andrei himself sustained a wound incompatible with life.  MoD added:

Military doctors at the Hmeimim air base fought for the serviceman’s life for more than a day, although Andrei Timoshenkov died of the severe wound he had sustained on June 16. Sergeant Andrei Leonidovich Timoshenkov was issued a state honor posthumously by the command.

Local media reported that Timoshenkov was a marine from Kaliningrad Region. The Conflict Intelligence Team said he served in the Russian Marines’ 336th Brigade in Baltiysk in Kaliningrad Region.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story said 10 deaths had been confirmed, but in fact it is now 11. 

Timoshenkov was the 11th soldier confirmed to have died in Syria. The last one soldier announced by the Defense Ministry as having been killed was Mikhail Shirokopoyas, a story we covered last week.