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Russian mercenaries fighting in Ukraine and Syria decorated with state awards, cyber sleuths reveal

Russian mercenaries fighting in Ukraine and Syria decorated with state awards, cyber sleuths reveal
The Ukrainian OSINT collective InformNapalm has released an investigation showing that six Russian nationals who fought in both Syria and Ukraine’s Donbas were decorated for their war services. All of the six were the contractors of the Wagner private military company by Putin’s ally Yevgeny Prigozhin. Three received state awards.

Read also: Wagner mercenaries: what we know about Putin’s private army in Donbas

In early October, the SBU (Ukraine’s Security Service) published a list of 206 non-staff servicemen of the GRU (Russian Armed Forces’ Main Intelligence Directorate) who were participated in Russian military operations in Syria as members of the Wagner private military company (PMC).

See also:
Ukraine names over 150 mercenaries from “Putin’s private army” fighting in Ukraine and Syria
Russia recruited over 5,000 mercenaries to fight in its wars abroad, SBU says

On 26 October the Ukraine-based digital sleuths community InformNapalm reported that they obtained from their “own sources” the scanned copies of passports of six Russian nationals who participated as GRU contractors in the combat missions in the East-Ukrainian region of the Donbas, as well as details on the state awards the mercenaries were bestowed for their military activities.

“The names obtained by InformNapalm match those published by the SBU,” InformNapalm wrote and disclosed some details on the six.

The actors

Two tank driver-mechanics, Viktor Shapavalov and Egor Svetkin fought for the Russian-hybrid forces in the area of the Donbas major railway hub of Debaltseve and near the villages of Sanzharivka, Utkyne in January-February 2015 in the ranks of Wagner PMC. Roman Chupakhin, a rigger of a logistics company, was also a member of the Wagner PMC who fought in the same area during the same period. All the three had regular deployments in Syria starting from the end of 2015. Egor Svetkin was also featured in another Infornapalm’s investigation Tankmen of Wagner PMC in the service of Russia from Donbas to Syria – 25 mercenaries identified.

Pavel Tishkovich, a rifleman of a filtration platoon, was a member of the PMC reserve company in Ukraine in March-April 2016, deployed in Syria in 2017.

Sergey Luzan, a driver for artillery battery ammunition transportation, was directly involved in the Russian hostilities in the Ukrainian territory near Luhansk Airport in July-August 2014 as a Wagner PMV mercenary. He ended up in Syria after the Ukrainian deployment. More information on Luzan is available on the Ihtamnet.m0209 Facebook page.

Andrey Lebedev, a senior anti-aircraft gunner of the MANPADS crew, took a direct part in military actions near Luhansk Airport, and SBU suspects him of the Ukrainian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 shoot-down, which resulted in deaths of 49 paratroopers and crew members. Later in January-February 2015, as Shapavalov, Svetkin, Chupakhin, he fought in the Battle for Debaltseve in the areas of Debaltseve itself, Sanzharivka, and Utkyne. In October 2014 he received a Russian state award, the Medal for Bravery. Later in May 2015, Lebedev was decorated with another state award, the Order of Courage.


According to the investigation, in April 2016 three of the six “wagnerites” were awarded for the “participation in operational reconnaissance and special operations in the area of Palmyra [Syria],” the award sheet listed their positions in the Wagner PMC and mentioned that they were “operating in the interests of the MoD of the Russian Federation.”

  • Shapovalov and Svetkin were awarded with the Order of Courage,
  • Lebedev – with the Medal of Suvorov.
The Order of Courage is awarded to both military and civilians, however, Lebedev’s decoration, the Medal of Suvorov, is Russia’s military-only award bestowed only to active servicemen.

InformNapalm highlights that Russian President Putin’s decree signed on 3 September 2018 classifies the data on the involvement in intelligence activities any eternal personnel being not employed by Russia’s Ministry of Defense, Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and Federal Security Service (FSB). That is why the data concerning the InformNapalm investigation’s involvees remains classified by now as a state secret in Russia.

“This is yet another indication that Wagner PMC and its likes are only a cover for the activities of the separate “freelance” brigade of the Russian military intelligence service. Therefore, all the crimes of its employees are war crimes of the Russian Federation ordered and abetted by its leadership,” stresses InformNapalm.

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