„If Russia is a nation at war, the Kremlin has always been careful to frame its campaign in Syria as an aerial operation. Other than a limited number of ‘instructors and military advisers’, Russian officials have repeatedly stated that they do not need to put ‘boots on the ground’. The Russian narrative of low-cost conflict has been seriously challenged however by a group of young Russian men who claim that their country’s involvement in Syria is far more extensive – and more costly – than anyone in President Putin’s administration is prepared to admit. These individuals told Sky News that they were recruited by a highly secretive private military company called ‘Wagner’ and flown to Syria aboard Russian military transport planes.
For the equivalent of £3,000 a month, they say they were thrown into pitch battles and firefights with rebel factions – including Islamic State. Two of the group, Alexander and Dmitry, told Sky News they felt lucky to be alive. ‚It’s 50-50,‘ said Alexander (not his real name). ‚Most people who go there for the money end up dead. Those who fight for ideals, to fight against the Americans, American special-forces, some ideology – they have a better chance of survival.‘ ‚Approximately 500 to 600 people have died there,‘ claimed Dmitry. ‚No one will ever find out about them… that’s the scariest thing. No one will ever know.‘“