Ivan Slyshkin was killed by a sniper in Syria at age 23, but his name won’t be found among the Russian Defense Ministry’s official casualties in the fight against Islamic State extremists.
That’s because he was one of thousands of Russians deployed to Syria by a shadowy, private military contractor known as Wagner, which the government doesn’t talk about.
The St. Petersburg-based website Fontanka reported that about 3,000 Russians under contract to the Wagner group have fought in Syria since 2015. When Putin went to a Russian air base in Syria on Dec. 11 and told Russian troops that “you are coming back home with victory,” he did not mention the private contractors.
The Russian Defense Ministry has said 41 of its troops have died in Syria, but according to Fontanka, another 73 private contractors have been killed there.