Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

The Deir Ezzor Turkey Shoot (7)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

My assessment?  With all their high tech tools and bravado, in the close-in fight, the Russians can’t fight worth a crap unless it’s all Spetsnaz. At stand-off range, they’re okay, but both the Russians and their proxies can’t seem to seal the deal.

After a careful read, I am forced to ask, why were so many Russians and their proxies killed?  I can only think of three reasons. 

  1. Poor leadership
  2. Poor intelligence
  3. Poor training or equipment

As the US and their proxy forces have been in Syria for quite some time and it is Syrian home ground, their intelligence of where the forces are located and the makeup of artillery and air support should have been of fairly high resolution.  They should have known the ‘support by all necessary means’ policy Americans usually have in these type operations. 

Training in the Wagner PMC should have been near the top by Russian conventional standards, as most would have been fairly recent soldiers in the regular Russian army. They would have joined the PMC because they had a greater desire to serve.  Their equipment was supplied by the Russian Army and would have been nearly state of the art.  I can’t speak for maintenance, however. 

Which leads me to the Russian leadership.  The chain of command for PMCs is unclear when it comes to conventional Russian lines, but apparently, Yevgeny Prigozhin was involved. He does not seem to have military training. The orders were clear, attack. The Russians, however, beside Donbass, have never attacked. If you’ve ever lead soldiers into a fairly large battle, even just in an exercise, it is confusing as hell.  Then throw in artillery and air support, and your untrained junior and senior leaders will fold like playing cards in a wind storm. As soon as one small element begins to become unglued, those they come in contact with will also shatter.  They all quickly become cannon fodder. 

The US has learned that lesson and is using Blue Force trackers, beginning in 1996.  Russia, not so much.

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No major developments or disclosures over the last five days, but a great many background and backfill reports. No strong consensus either as yet on body count, but 300+ continues to be cited, with hundreds WIA in Russian hospitals. Quite a bit of ongoing coverage of families and friends complaining.

Curious has been the coverage by US mainstream media – York makes an interesting point – the bias against the Administration is so strong that often they appear to be unable to bring themselves to report properly on a catastrophe for Russia, in terms of both global credibility and domestic politics.

The Russians clearly set out in a premeditated manner to kill or capture US personnel, and then got annihilated as they deserved to be, and were unable to prevent it from happening.

After Russia’s debacle in Eastern Ukraine, Syria is shaping up to be yet another debacle. And like Ukraine, also a self-inflicted debacle.

Trump must respond to deadly Russian aggression—Commentary

The evidence is mounting that the Kremlin knew in advance about an attack on U.S. troops in Syria and now President Trump must respond, says Jake Novak.

Russia’s Attack on U.S. Troops – WSJ

Putin’s mercenaries are bloodied in Syria, as he tries to drive Trump out.

Russia’s Mercenary Debacle in Syria | Foreign Affairs

With its ability to control the Assad regime already in question, Russia now appears to be facing issues restraining even its own mercenary contractors. By Neil Hauer On the night of February 7, a Kurdish-held oil field in northeastern Syria came under sudden attack by forces allied with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Heavy U.S. air strikes and artillery fire repelled the assault, with initial reports suggesting that at least 100 pro-government fighters were killed in the span of three hours. The next week, information began to emerge that many of those killed were Russian mercenaries contracted to the Wagner Group, a private military company with close ties to the Kremlin. A pair of Russian-language audio recordings described 200 dead Wagner fighters; other sources gave casualty figures as high as 600. Although these figures sounded absurd at first, with other Russian sources estimating only 20 to 25 dead, corroborating evidence increasingly backed a casualty tally in the hundreds. Former Wagner fighters with links to those killed reported between 80 and 100 dead and 200 injured, while Russian hospitals treated hundreds of wounded. A Chechen-language recording from Syria claimed that 170 of 200 Wagner fighters involved in the attack were dead. Three hundred casualties now appears not only a plausible but a probable figure. The recent operation seems to have caught the Russian government totally unprepared. Initial Kremlin statements were limited to a single quip on February 14 that there “may be citizens of the Russian Federation” fighting in Syria, but that these were “not connected” to Russia’s armed forces. The next day, the Russian Foreign Ministry admitted that “five Russians may have died” in Wagner’s attack. In the interim, several interviews with family members of the deceased emerged, as did independent confirmation of at least ten deaths. On February 20, the Foreign Ministry raised that number, stating that “several dozen” citizens of Russia and other Russian-speaking countries were killed or wounded in Syria. Moscow’s behavior seems to have been born from genuine confusion rather than calculated misinformation. Over the past five years, Wagner has evolved into the preeminent Russian military contractor, playing a central role in Moscow’s military operations in Syria and Ukraine.


Moscow mired in Syria as Putin’s gameplan risks a deadly ending | World news | The Guardian

The Russian leader took a gamble to back Bashar al-Assad against Syrian opposition forces but increasingly it looks as if both men miscalculated

Russia stumbles in the fog of Syrian war

Russia overall finds its ability to control the complex Syrian conflict—particularly the interplays between the parties involved—much diminished. Just a couple of months ago, its mission of ensuring the survival of the internationally ostracized Bashar Assad regime evidently appeared accomplished.

Byron York: Trump and Obama: Who’s really tougher on Russia?

When it comes to comparing Trump and Obama, Republicans ask that Americans look at the whole picture, and not just a fight over Facebook ads…


The business of war: Russian mercenaries in Syria – France 24

A paramilitary chief who serves as a contact for Russians who want to become mercenaries in Syria discusses the grim business of making war for profit. He spoke to FRANCE 24 only on condition of anonymity. If you live near Russia’s Yekaterinburg and want to fight with pro-regime forces in Syria, there’s one man you need to speak to. He is a paramilitary chief who advises Russians wanting to work for Wagner, a shadowy Kremlin-linked private military contractor known for sending mercenaries to Syria. “Each week I receive five or six new requests,” he told FRANCE 24. “Some call me by phone, others come to see me. About a hundred people in the region are planning to go to Syria.” He said that interest has only increased since the Russian foreign ministry reported that five Russians died in a US bombing raid on pro-regime troops attacking opposition forces in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province on February 7. “Now, it’s more about getting revenge than it is about money,” he said. But the chief warned that these revenge-seekers don’t know the whole story. According to him, it wasn’t just five Russians killed in the American raid – it was 218. (US officials have said about 100 pro-regime fighters were killed, without specifying whether they were Syrian army, Russian or other forces.) However, the paramilitary chief said only 150 bodies have so far been recovered. “There are 150 people in refrigerators on the Wagner base” back in Russia, he said. “Their state? ‘Minced meat’ is how they described them to me.” Even so, the chief doesn’t feel much sympathy for those who died; he believes it is a fate they chose. “If you sign up with a private military company, you have sold yourself to them for money,” he said. “The company can use you however it wants. What will happen to you after your death? If you’ve been turned into mincemeat, so what? They put you in a bag, close the coffin and – in the best-case scenario – send you home. In the worst, they bury you there. If you are ready to earn money by killing people and defending the commercial interests of others, then that’s fine.” Though the assault happened more than two weeks ago, the chief says that the families of the dead still don’t know what happened to their relatives. “Nothing will happen before the presidential election on March 18,” he told FRANCE 24. “We all know why. There’s no problem keeping the deaths secret.” The military chief told FRANCE 24 that these private contractors step in when the Russian government needs deniability. “What’s the main goal of any private military company? Defend the interests of a government if it can’t use the regular army,” he said. He says Wagner, which also sends mercenaries to fight in the Donbass region in Ukraine, is in the mercenary business for profit. “The goal is financial revenue and the possibility of taking control of a large market for oil resources so our country can control it,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing.” “We didn’t start this war. But it’s up to us to finish it.”

UAWire – Ukrainian General: Defeat of Russian Wagner private military company in Syria demonstrates superiority of US army over Russian army

The rout of the Russian Wagner private military company in Syria demonstrates the significant superiority of the U.S. Army over the Russian Army, …

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russian Private Military Companies Rapidly Growing Sector, Participants and Experts Say

Paul Goble Staunton, February 24 – Private military companies are a highly profitable growth sector because both the Russian government and business increasingly rely on them, their employees and outside experts say. And because of that, Duma members say, the government will soon legalize them so as to be able to tax them too. Mikhail Bely, a journalist for the URA news agency, says that ever more men are applying to work for these companies even though they are illegal in Russia and thus any employee could be charged with violating the country’s restrictions against mercenary activity and facing 15 years in prison ( These companies have increased both in size and in number, with many of them working abroad guarding ships from pirates in the Indian Ocean, some world leaders like Bashar Asad of Syria, and providing guidance and training to foreign militaries and businesses. Sometimes, employees say, they work abroad for the Russian government as well. One private military company employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the reasons the firms were growing so quickly just now including: rising unemployment in Russia forcing people to take what jobs they can get, an expanding number of military conflicts, and the difficulties military and police retirees face finding jobs. There are more applicants than positions, however, and so the companies can be highly selective. Only those with sterling backgrounds and good skills will be offered positions. Many who do get jobs don’t understand the risks: if they get in trouble abroad, the Russian government often can’t do anything for them – and they can’t sue the companies. Iosif Linder, president of the International Counter-Terrorist Association, says that private military companies are invariably closely tied to governments and their security services. “It cannot be otherwise.” Some invest in these companies; others find it easier to hire people, have them die at work, and then hire more. Some think that mercenaries get rich, but that’s not the case. Yes, they make 3000 to 4000 US dollars a month, a lot by Russian standards, Linder says; but employees aren’t going to become “multi-millionaires.” According to Sergey Sudakov, a candidate member of the Academy of Military Sciences, says that “the legalization of private military companies in Russia is extremely necessary.” He urges Moscow to copy the US approach in using such structures because that will allow Russia to solve many problems that are now beyond its capacity. The most important reason for legalization, he continues, is that it will create additional jobs and give those who have them social guarantees that they or their heirs can defend in court.

‘A Total F***-up’: Russian Mercenaries in Syria Lament U.S. Strike That Killed Dozens

Recorded phone calls suggest around 215 Russian mercenaries were killed by U.S. artillery and airstrikes in a battle in Syria on the night of February 7-8.

In Syria, a Russian Ex-Commando Dies in the Shadows – WSJ

Igor Kosoturov died as he fought: in the shadows. Word of the 45-year-old’s death on a distant Syrian battlefield earlier this month, unacknowledged by the Kremlin, reached his Russian hometown by an informal route.

Ukrainians fight and die among Russian Wagner mercenaries | KyivPost

The Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, has identified at least 40 Ukrainian nationals fighting for Russia’s Wagner private military company – a Kremlin-sponsored mercenary group that fought in Russia’s war against Ukraine and now fights to support Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Some of them are no longer alive, however. Igor Guskov, the chief of staff of the head of SBU, told the Kyiv Post that at least three Ukrainian nationals were killed in Syria in the spring of 2016, while more are likely to have been killed in a Feb. 7 airstrike by U.S. forces in Syria. He said that the SBU has information that several residents of Crimea, the Russian-occupied Ukrainian peninsula, were among nearly 300 mercenaries killed on Feb. 7 in U.S. air and artillery strikes in Deir al-Zour province in eastern Syria. The Russian mercenaries were reportedly attempting to capture a base held by anti-Assad forces when their advancing troop columns were hit by U.S. airstrikes. Guskov said that Wagner company had a special unit called the Carpathians, which formerly had about 100 Ukrainian and Russian nationals. The unit was formed in 2015 in the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine’s Donbas. “They were initially trained for subversive and terrorist activity in Ukraine,” he said. He added that after Russia deployed its mercenaries to Syria, the Ukrainians were dispersed among various Wagner units. Guskov said Wagner mercenaries were the main force used by the Russians to capture the Syrian city of Palmyra in March 2016 and March 2017 – operations that brought them heavy casualties. According to SBU information published by the Ukrainian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the three Ukrainian nationals killed in Syria in spring 2016 were Donetsk Oblast natives Eduard Prykhodko from Horlivka, Oleksandr Konashenkov from Novohradivka, and Oleksandr Kyyashko from the city of Donetsk. The first two were killed near Palmyra and the third in Latakia. All three had previously fought for the Russian side in the Donbas. Wagner founder While Moscow has dissociated itself from Wagner, Dmitry Utkin, the founder and leader of the mercenary group has been spotted by media at an official reception in the Kremlin, and he has been photographed with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Utkin, a former officer of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, grew up in Ukraine and went to school in the town of Smoline in Kirovohrad Oblast, where his mother lived until recently. Utkin traveled to Ukraine for the last time in 2013, according to the SBU. In June, the United States put Utkin on its sanctions list for his involvement in the war in Ukraine. Earlier, SBU head Vasyl Hrytsak said that the Wagner group was responsible for downing a Ukrainian IL-76 military jet with 49 Ukrainian soldiers onboard near Luhansk Airport in June 2014. Cannon fodder Russian mercenary Mikhail Polinkov, who fought in Russia’s war against Ukraine, said in an interview with Roy-TV, a Russian ultranationalist Youtube channel, that the Carpathians unit, also known as Vesna (Spring), was one of three main forces in Wagner group’s attack on Feb. 7, and that 94 of its people were killed. “They were the attacking core,” Polinkov said. “They went first — the Carpathians-Spring. I don’t know why, but they were always being sent into the attack first as cannon fodder. And they were also paid less than the others,” he said. Polinkov said in the interview that he had visited some of the Wagner mercenaries in Moscow hospitals. According to Russian media reports, Wagner’s mercenaries are paid some 24,000 rubles (about $4,000) a month, while the families of those killed receive 5 million rubles (about $88,000) in compensation. Slain Wagner mercenaries receive no benefits from the Russian government, but have had monuments raised in their honor in Russian-occupied parts of eastern Ukraine and in the parts of Syria controlled by the Assad regime. Donetsk-born journalist and blogger Denis Kazansky recently posted on his Facebook page photos of two identical monuments to Russian mercenaries, both monuments having recently been unveiled in the Russian-occupied city of Luhansk, and in Syria. The figures on the monuments are wearing the special medals that Russia has awarded to Wagner mercenaries.

Tankmen of the “Wagner” PMC in the service of Russia from Donbass to Syria. 25 mercenaries identified

Earlier, the Pentagon distributed a video of the destruction of the T-72 tank near the Syrian city of Deir ez Zor, filmed on February 7. Then the media began to appear details of the death of a large group of militants from the PMC “Wagner”. The volunteers of the international community InformNapalm together with the team of the project “Ihtamnet_m0209” and hack activists of the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance carried out comprehensive intelligence work on the collection and identification of the PMS militants that are / were part of the tank crews. Some of the information was obtained from our insiders, it was checked and supplemented during the investigation of open sources and the scanning of mail correspondence. In order to preserve access to sources of information leakage, we do not yet disclose the entire range of data. But already now we can present personal data of 26 mercenaries (25 tankmen + 1 chief of the fuel service). We have not yet been able to establish which of them took part in the fighting near Deir ez Zor, but some have departmental awards for fighting in the Donbass, including tank fights at the Lugansk airport, signed personally by the Russian president.

The gunners of the Wagner PMC in Syria and the Donbas. 20 mercenaries of the battery of 2S1 howitzers identified

Taking into account the public resonance and considerable attention to the theme of mercenaries of the “Wagner” PMs, which Vladimir Putin and his closest circle use for hybrid military operations outside the Russian Federation, we continue publishing sensitive intelligence for the Kremlin. We identified another 20 mercenaries, which are part of the self-propelled artillery division of the Wagner ChVK. Among them, two militants who were killed in Syria were also identified. Data on their deaths were not advertised before. The information was collected by the joint efforts of the volunteers of the international intelligence community InformNapalm, the team of the project “Ihtamnet_m0209” and hack activists of the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance.

Zakharova Downplays Armed Clash with Americans in Syria, Kremlin-linked Audio Recordings Contradict Her Story

Eight Russians killed in the incident have already been identified in press reports, and multiple sources suggest the number of Russian deaths is much higher.

Updated: What Is the Connection Between the Wagner Group and the Russian State?

Russian officials have been extremely reluctant to speak about the deaths of Russian “private contractors” in Syria, denying any connection or even knowledge of their outfit, the Wagner Group. …

Syria war: Who are Russia’s shadowy Wagner mercenaries? – BBC News

Russian Wagner group fighters have died in Syria – others have fought in Ukraine.

Charged ‘Putin’s chef’ runs news sites along with troll army – The Washington Post

He’s been indicted in the U.S. for meddling in the 2016 presidential election with an army of trolls and his private military company has trodden battlefields in Ukraine and Syria. Still, the Russian multimillionaire dubbed “Putin’s chef” runs yet another asset that is valuable to the Kremlin: a sprawling Russian media empire.

Yevgeny Prigozhin: the shady Putin crony funding Russia’s troll farm and mercenary army – Vox

Prigozhin, the man known as “Putin’s chef,” was recently indicted by Mueller.

New Russian Question: Who Is Mr. Prigozhin? – To Inform is to Influence

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: 29 By: Pavel K. Baev February 26, 2018 05:37 PM The past several weeks revealed new details about the inner workings of the shadowy side of Russian foreign and defense policymaking. The revelations—focusing mainly on the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the United States’ 2016 presidential election and…

Russia takes revenge for killed PMC Wagner mercenaries, destroys dozens of US instructors in terrorist training camps

The Russian Air Force struck the positions of radical Islamists in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta