A statue identical to the one to Russian mercenaries in Syria which surfaced in January has now popped up in Luhansk, the capital of the unrecognized “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LNR”) in the east-Ukrainian region of Donbas. The statue likely features a mercenary from the “Wagner” private military company, which has recently come to light after US airstrikes and an attack of the international anti-IS coalition had reportedly killed large numbers of them in Syria. Many “Wagner” mercenaries had previously fought in Donbas against the Ukrainian government.
The photo had been shared by the social media activist Drugoi Luhansk, who tweets pictures about life in the “LNR,” which Ukraine considers to be occupied by Russia, on 22 February 2018. The inscription says “To Russian volunteers.”
Social media users noticed it is identical to a photo of a statue to the same “Russian volunteers” allegedly erected in Syria which surfaced on the Telegram channel WarJournal. The photo was analyzed by the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), which found that the medal on the pedestal resembles the so-called “Wagner Cross” awarded to fighters of Russia’s “Wagner PMC” in particular for the battle of Palmyra.
CIT notes that the Arabic inscription, which translates to “For the Russian volunteers who died bravely liberating Syria’s oil fields from ISIS,” can be explained by an article in the Russian media outlet Fontanka from June 2017, which told about a contract between the Syrian government and a Russian company with links to Wagner which provided the company a production share from the oil and gas fields it would liberate. CIT also reported that according to another media outlet, RBC, a Wagner mercenary Ivan Slyshkin was killed in the fighting for one of those fields.
Earlier, Ukraine’s Security Service had released a report naming over 150 “Wagner” mercearies, as well as presented intercepts they allege prove the group’s connection to the Russian army and involvement in key battles in Donbas. However, “Wagner” isn’t the only Russian private military company fighting against the Ukrainian government in Donbas.
- Wagner mercenaries: what we know about Putin’s private army in Donbas
- Moscow’s private military companies continue to be a serious threat in Ukraine
- ‘Spetsnaz of the USSR’ – the new Russian irregulars in Syria now fighting for Assad
- Putin comes up with another way to hide Russian combat losses
- Ukraine names over 150 mercenaries from “Putin’s private army” fighting in Ukraine and Syria