Russia denied that its forces in Syria have anything to do with a video being circulated on social and traditional media that shows a Syrian soldier’s head being cut off by people wearing military uniforms and speaking Russian.
A spokesman for the Russian presidency, Dmitry Peskov, said in statements carried by Rio Novosti on Thursday that the video, “could not be connected with the Russian army,” adding that, “I do not know what’s going on with this video, but I’m convinced it has nothing to do with the Russian military operation in Syria.”
A video was published of people wearing military uniforms and speaking Russian as they torture a Syrian man with a hammer and then behead him and amputate his arms before setting his body on fire, accusing him of fleeing the Assad regime army.
The video is from 2017 but it spread widely last week, and Russian and international media began investigating it with help from independent investigators who determined that the site of the incident was the al-Shaer gas station near Homs.
The Russian Novaya Gazeta newspaper carried out an investigation into the incident, which it published on Wednesday, saying that one of the people who appeared in the video was a former Russian police officer called Stanislav D., who joined the Russian private military company Wagner, which has links to the Kremlin.
According to the investigation, which was seen by Alsouria Net, the person who was tortured was Mohamed Abdullah Ismail, from Deir ez-Zor city and had been living in Lebanon but returned to Syria in 2017 after he was called up to fight in regime ranks—but then he later fled.
The Russian fighters, whom the newspaper said were not official, appear to be drunk in the video, with their faces covered entirely except for the one person who was identified. The voice of one of them is heard saying, “Hide your faces … well, whatever, this video won’t go up anywhere anyway.”
The Guardian, a British newspaper, published a report on Thursday saying that it had identified the former Russian officer through a FineClone identification program, quoting an independent team saying that the person who carried out the torture was the same one who had been identified, Stanislav D.
The British paper said that the incident will, “further blacken the reputation of Wagner, which was founded by a businessman close to Vladimir Putin.”
According to the paper, Wagner’s members are deployed widely in Syria, fighting alongside the Assad regime, and have reportedly been rewarded with oil concessions.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.