Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

The Deir Ezzor Turkey Shoot (4)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting. 

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This self-inflicted mess is gathering momentum in Russia. And acknowledged body counts are creeping upward from 214 KIA, now to 334 KIA, and Russian sources say it is expected to get larger – we should not be surprised if it climbs to the previously merc-claimed 644 KIA.

The blame is being mostly assigned to Putin and his leadership group by Russian nationalists, independent media, and opposition groups.

Why the Russians effectively called in an “Arc Light – lite” on top of themselves remains the big question that is being speculated upon in every imaginable manner by Russian commentators domestic and abroad.

Kazarin argues that Putin and his regime are now deeply immersed in an alternate reality of their own making. Given numerous past events and statements, the evidence is pointing strongly in that direction.

Sooner or later the regime was going to collide with reality, and Deir Ezzor might be that collision.

Curiously, when similar numbers of Russian “tourists” from elite Guards Spetsnaz, VDV, Naval Infantry units and FSB/MoI “kosmonaut” SOF units were wiped out daily in human wave assaults on the Donetsk city airport, nobody in Russia seemed to care, despite frantic and distraught families.

Somehow, Russians appear to believe that bleeding out after being shredded by Ukrainian 152mm tube artillery is a more acceptable way of being killed than being blown to fragments by an American GBU-32 JDAM.

SECDEF Mattis says the US is still trying to determine exactly who issued the order to attack US forces.

Given the claimed (by Russian sources) presence of active duty Russian Army Spetsnaz in the BTGs, the odds of this attack not being another false flag op stage managed from Moscow are not good.

After almost four years of this modus operandi daily in the Donbass, one would need compelling reasons to accept any other explanation.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Did Moscow Intentionally Send Russian Mercenaries to Their Deaths in Syria to Solve a Problem in the Donbass?

Paul Goble Staunton, February 12 – Among the most unpleasant aspects of following Kremlin actions is that one must always be open to the possibility that its denizens will act in ways that seem too outrageous or immoral to be considered but then turn out to be exactly what they are doing. Igor Eidman, a Russian commentator for Deutsche Welle, suggests that may be the case with the recent deaths of Russian mercenaries in Syria. According to him, it may be the case that this project constituted “Operation ‘Utilization,’” one designed to have “other hands” get rid of its own “dangerous ballast” ( Specifically, he says, “the Russian authorities could have completely consciously sent ‘those who are not here’ [ikh-tam-nets] into the slaughter in Deir-es-Zor and not done anything to save them when the Americans warned about an upcoming attack” because in that way, some militants Moscow wanted out of the way would be disposed of after performing a final “service.” That could have happened, Eidman suggests, in order to remove some of the most hardened pro-Moscow fighters in the Donbass, at least some of whom had gone to take part in the Syrian conflict, and thus open the way for the kind of accord that the German foreign minister has suggested, placing UN peacekeepers in the Donbass and dropping sanctions. Had Moscow simply agreed to what Berlin is proposing without getting the radical militants out of the way, the Russian commentator suggests, any UN peacekeepers would have been opposed by its own militants in the Donbass. Eliminating them by having them killed in Syria could “solve” the problems they continue to present. “Now,” he continues, “the militants began to be quickly used up, that is, they were simply driven like swine to a slaughter (according to the expression of the widow of one of those killed) having only primitive weapons against those” in the American arsenal and thus certain to be eliminated. According to Eidman, “the Russian command … apparently made the following calculation.” Getting rid of these militants suits our purposes – the regular army has never liked such irregular and often undisciplined units — and those of the Kremlin as well which has a broader agenda that by this action, we can be seen to have supported.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Syrian Debacle ‘Greatest Shame of the Entire Putin Regime,’ Satarov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, February 18 – Although many details are unknown or subject to intense dispute, Georgy Satarov says, it is already obvious that what took place in Syria on the night of February 7-8 represents “the greatest shame of the Putin regime for all of the 18 years it has been in power.” There are currently two “main questions” that Russians must face: how many victims were there among Russian citizens and what kind of status did these Russians have, according to the president of the INDEM Foundation. As everyone knows, there is an active dispute about the first ( Regarding the second, Satarov says, “there are two versions.” The first is that the Russian citizens involved were mercenaries, and the second is that they were members of some branch of the Russian special forces operating under cover as mercenaries. In terms of shame, of course, there is no real difference. In neither case can the Russian government escape blame and in neither were these forces engaged in the supposed “struggle with terrorism” or providing “help to the fraternal Syrian people. In both cases, the authorities betrayed their own citizens and betrayed them in an unprecedented manner.” According to Satarov, the number of Russian citizens killed is certainly higher than any Russian official will say, possibly in “the hundreds” because if it were otherwise the US military would now have been so restrained in its reporting. Its “silence,” he says, “is part of an informal collusion with Russian military and others … who assert that these were non-combatants.” In Russia meanwhile, Satarov continues, “some are silent but others are lying for an understandable reason. Truth could destabilize the situation not only in Russia but lead to a gigantic military catastrophe. Now a nervous Putin controls the nuclear button.” And how he might react if he were compelled to face the truth “is unknown even to the Most High.” “Therefore,” the Moscow analyst says, “you and I must pray for the silence of the one group and the lying of the other. The time for a trial of the liars and thieves has still not come. One must be patience. And one would not want that a nuclear war interfere with this inevitable tribunal.” Satarov concludes with the following remark about shame: “This is not our shame. We did not select them, we did not authorize anyone to begin a war beyond the borders of Russia or send [mercenaries or troops] there. This is the shame” of those who made those decisions, a shame that reflects their moral bankruptcy.” “Our shame,” the Moscow commentator says, is elsewhere: it is that those people are “still in power.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russian Command Bears Full Responsibility for Russian Mercenary Deaths in Syria, Ikhlov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, February 16 – By denial and indirection, Moscow has tried to suggest that American forces are to blame for the deaths of Russian mercenaries in Syria; but in reality, “responsibility for what happened rests on the closest effective powers – the Russian command,” and their actions raise the old question: “was this stupidity or treason?” In a comment on the Kasparov portal (, the Moscow analyst offers a five-part argument in support of his overall conclusion: 

  • First, no one disputes that there were at least some casualties among the irregular Russian forces or that they were there with the approval of both the Syrian authorities and the Russian military command in Syria. 
  • Second, those who suffered were mercenaries under the terms of international law. 
  • Third, “responsibility for all their actions is in the hands of the closest effective powers – the Russian command,” something the Russian defense ministry has indirectly confirmed by asserting that the mercenaries had acted “without the agreement” with Russian commanders, an indication that from Moscow’s point of view, they should have done so. 
  • Fourth, “these mercenaries attacked citizens (military personnel) of the US, despite repeated warnings by the US representatives” against such actions. “The organizers certainly knew that they were beginning a direct military confrontation with the US [and] that the US would quickly discover” that those doing so were connected with Moscow. 
  • And fifth, once the American response began, the Russian command “for several hours” did nothing to tell the Americans that they were attacking the wrong people although they had done so in the past and although once the Russians made such a call in this case, the Americans ceased their operation.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: The Real Syrian Story is Now Very Much in Moscow

Paul Goble Staunton, February 15 – The Russian foreign ministry today finally confirmed that five Russians were killed by US forces in Syria, far fewer than many other sources have reported but an indication that the Kremlin felt it had to try to put the story behind it by admitting at least that ( However much Moscow may hope to change the narrative with this announcement, it can do little or nothing to end the discussions in Russia itself about what happened in Syria and why and about what responsibility the Kremlin bears for this latest loss of Russian lives and what Russia should do in response to the American action. In short, the real “Syrian” story is now in Moscow, and the past 24 hours have been marked by five commentaries that suggest the events of the night of February 7-8 in that Middle Eastern country are going to echo there for some time, posing challenges to the regime in general and Vladimir Putin in particular. 

First, Moscow commentator Andrey Volna says that it is clear from what has been reported that the deaths of the Vagner mercenaries was the product of a conflict between the official Russian military and such groups, that the former sacrificed the latter to the Americans, and that the Americans didn’t like being used ( That is because, he continues, American forces have always sought “to avoid even the theoretical possibility of a military clash with the Russians because of the risk of the escalation of any conflict with a nuclear power.” But even more, Volna writes, what happened to the Vagner mercenaries reflected “the extremely serious clashes in the highest echelons of the Russian authorities and is testimony of the disintegration of the administration.” It shows that for people at the top, fighting for their selfish interests is more important that defending Russia and Russians as such.

Second, Russian commentator Aleksey Melnikov argues that the reaction of Russian society to what has happened shows that the degeneration of that society has reached a dangerous point, one where Russians appear to have accepted that war is the normal state of being even though the money being spent on war could better be used to fight their poverty ( Many are sullenly angry, but they are not taking steps to promote change.

Third, the authorities are lashing out at anyone who challenges either their version of events or raises questions about their intentions, as Igor Eidman, a Russian commentator for Deutsche Welle, documents in their attack on him, and these attacks are so hyperbolic that they suggest a certain desperation at the top (

Fourth, as Igor Yakovenko writes in Yezhednevny zhurnal, there is a sense among Russians that those running their country are ignorant of key realities and think they can proceed by denying what is obvious to others, an attitude that is leading ever more people to lose their trust in the powers that be ( And fifth, as various commentators have noted, what everyone can see to have happened shows that Moscow’s leaders are incompetent and leading the country in the wrong direction ( and Such feelings may not trigger any serious moves against the regime in the short term, but they are going to make it harder for the Kremlin to maintain the fictions that it has promoted in the past. And that in turn will open a space for Putin’s opponents if they choose to exploit it to challenge what he is doing in new and more damaging ways.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin has Fallen into the Trap of Believing His Own Propaganda, Kazarin Says

Paul Goble Staunton, February 17 – Many make the mistake of assuming that Vladimir Putin has a more sophisticated understanding of the world than the propaganda image his regime puts out, Pavel Kazarin says; but that is not the case. Instead, Putin has fallen into the trap of believing his own propaganda, making mistakes, and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Ukrainian commentator argues that the Kremlin’s “main problem” over the last four years is that its “picture of reality doesn’t correspond with that of all the remaining players and that as a result it is condemned to commit errors” that create an ever more dangerous situation ( This situation “began with Crimea when Russia decided that the Maidan was only a special operation of the West against it. When it annexed the peninsula, it was [therefore] convinced that it had not crossed any red lines.” That continued with the Donbass where Moscow “convinced itself that it was fighting in Ukraine’s east with ‘the West.’” In both cases, “Moscow remained true to itself: [for it] no Ukraine exists, Ukrainians don’t want anything, and everything that is taking place is the work of forces hidden behind a curtain.” Thus, Moscow has felt all along that it is fighting with the West, a view that it has extended into the Syrian conflict as well. Thus, “the role of the ‘junta’ was given to those who were against Syrian President Bashar Asad, but the main enemy remained unchanged – that is the West,” Kazarin says. “Of course, we can say that this logic must not correspond with that of ‘the elite,’ that in Kremlin offices sit people who aren’t dominated by the messages of Dmitry Kiselyov, that he offers his media product only for ‘the lower’ part of society, and that the Russia elite is cynical, but sober and calculating.” “But what if this isn’t so? What if Vladimir Putin watches television?” The same one that others do and that there is “no ‘second level of truth’ but only the first and it is the single one that exists? What if the entire Russian vertical is a cohort of feverish agitators who are continuing to fight” with the West as they did in the Cold War? There is good reason to think that this is so: “The higher leadership of the Russian Federation consists of people from the special services, the same for whom conspiracy thinking is an obligatory condition of their careers, the same who are required to see a conspiracy in everything, and for whom the cold war never ended.” Judging from his statements, Kazarin continues, Putin is very much one of these. And he is now pursuing the same enemy as in Vietnam “where Moscow supported one side and the collective US the other. But the main problem of this story is that unlike in Ukraine, there are Americans in Syria.” “In the Donbass, the Russian army risks encountering only the Ukrainian one. [But] in Syria, that isn’t the only risk.” And now Russia is suffering the consequences: Russian casualties inflicted by American airstrikes. “Russia thought up an enemy for itself, one with which it has fought consistently for a long time, but Syria is an example of what will happen if this enemy really turns its attention to Russia.” This is, Kazarin concludes, “a classic example of the self-fulfilling prophecy,” something that happens most often when those involved lose touch with reality.

UAWire – Former Russian MP: 334 Russians were killed in the US airstrike in Syria

334 Russians were killed in the airstrike of the US-led coalition on February 7.  217 people were from the fifth assault squad, 10 people from the second assault squad, 94 from Vesna (Spring) assault squad and 13 people from the artillery battalion, said former State Duma Deputy Viktor Alksnis during a broadcast of the Russian TV Channel Dozhd (Rain), stressing that it was an unofficial statistics. “This data is collected from a survey of family members of those who fought in Syria and who have information on the recent events there. In my opinion, this is not a final number “, he noted. According to him, servicemen of Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Russia took part in the operation on February 7. At this time, there is no information about the dead and injured among them. The statistics have also been posted on Alksnis’ Facebook page. Alksnis notes that there is a large number of wounded in Russian hospitals. On February 7, the US-led coalition forces conducted the strike against the Syrian militia affiliated with Assad in the province of Deir ez Zor. The U.S. coalition said that the blow was struck in response to an attack on the headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). According to Reuters, at least 100 people were killed in the attack. Later, reports started appearing of the presence of the Russian military among the forces attacked by the US-led coalition. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the deaths of five Russians as a result of the American air strike.

UAWire – Russian deputy Zhirinovsky confirms death of hundreds of Russian mercenaries in Syria

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the scandalous Russian State Duma MP and head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), let slip out information about the death of Wagner mercenaries in Syria.A corresponding video from the press conference appeared on Twitter. Zhirinovsky complained that able-bodied men in the Russian Federation do not have work, which justifies why they are fighting. “Now, in Syria, a large group has died. It’s that the widows remain. It does not matter that they were not official servicemen; they are our Russian men. And 300 families were left without a father, without a husband,” he said. More than 100 fighters for Syrian pro-government forces were killed in Syria on February 7 as a result of an air strike by an international coalition led by the United States. it subsequently became known that mercenaries from Wagner, a Russian private military company (PMC), were decimated in Syria. According to various sources, the number of Russians killed may reach up to 300 people. Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the deaths of five Russians as a result of the American air strike.

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Ukrainian military expert says Russia may take revenge for its private mercenaries killed in Syria | UNIAN

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