Last Friday independent media published a story about the funeral of a Belarusian-born Russian military who was allegedly killed in Syria. Belsat TV has made an attempt to find out where the man (his name was Uladzimir Bekish) served and under what circumstances he died.
Firstly, Uladzimir Bekish was not a pilot, as it was claimed earlier. He turned out to be a lieutenant colonel of land forces of the Russian Federation, his specialty was military intelligence. At the beginning of 2016, according to information posted on his social media profiles, Bekish was the commander of a reconnaissance company at the 5th Separate Tank Brigade, military unit 46108.
The unit was headquartered in the Republic of Buryatia, a member of the Russian Federation. Mr Bekish lived in its capital Ulan-Ude. Interestingly, many Buryats were in the 5th Separate Tank brigade which gained notoriety after the battles at Ukraine’s Debaltseve in February 2015.
This Buryat was a fighter of the brigade in which Bekish served.
In Debaltseve, separatist forces prevent a large number of Ukrainian soldiers from leaving the town. Their attempt to break out of the encirclement turned out to be a real bloodbath in which, among others, the deputy commander of the ATO forces was killed. It was the 5th Separate Tank brigade which Russia sent to help the militants.
Taking into account his position and military specialty, Bekish might have been there. The icing on the cake is his anti-Ukrainian posts and on Russian social network ‘Odnoklassniki’ (Classmates), e.g. “Like If you think that we should go to Kiev to free the country from criminal Bandera power!” Bekish liked the photo, but failed to reach Kyiv.
In December 2015, media reported that Belarusian Denis Vasiliev, who had Austrian citizenship and fought on the side of the Islamic State, was killed by Kurdish military. If the fact of Bekish’s death in Syria is confirmed, it will be the second known case of a Belarusians killed in this war.
“The [confirmation of the] fact of the death of lieutenant colonel Bekish in Syria will become the absolute proof of Russia’s land troops’ participation in the war on the side of Assad,” Dzyanis Ivashyn, a representative of OSINT project InformNapalm, says.
According to the Russian side, only aviation was used in Syria. Its air forces are known to have carried out strikes on Assad opponents and even civilians. Russia keeps denying the involvement of its land forces.
According to Ivashyn, from the beginning of the Russian intervention in Syria in September 2015, 16 ground from different districts of the Russian Federation were spotted with the help of monitoring and studying open sources. In April 2016, the 7th Tank Brigade which had been actively involved in the war in Donbas, was moved there from the town of Chebarkul (Central Military District). It should be noted that Russia Defense Ministry made a statement on the withdrawal of its troops from Syria in March, 2016.
“The 5th Separate Tank Brigade – including a reconnaissance company under the command of Bekish – might have been engaged to reinforce military units fighting on the side of Assad’s troops. This version is becoming more plausible if we recall that the brigade, as well as the 7th Tank Brigade, gained considerable combat experience in the course of the Ukrainian particularly in the battles of Debaltseve, significant reinforcement,” Ivashyn stresses.
Where and under what circumstances could Bekish have been killed in Syria? At the cemetery in Auls, where he is buried, we met a worker who allegedly attended the funeral and listened to talks. According to him, bekish fell a victim to guerrillas who attacked his checkpoint. Of course, it is hard to verify such information.
It is uch more likely that Bekish might have been killed during al-Assad’s recent unsuccessful offensive in the direction of Itria-Raqqa. Islamists’ websites reported deaths of many ‘Russian kafirs’ (‘infidels’) and published pictures of burnt military equipment and the photos taken by the phone of one of those killed. According to the plate on the grave, Bekish died on 19 June. The most severe fighting near Raqqa took place on June, 20, website Kavkaz-Center reports.
Three weeks ago Bekish went on a ‘business trip’ to Syria, some Lyudmila said in comments on the website “Charter 97”. Considering that for the last time he visited social network Odnoklassniki on May 19, a month before his death, probably before the departure to the destination country – all begins to fall into place.
A few words should be said about Bekish’s awards Bekish. We can see some in the photo of the funeral. By the way, Russian military prevented photographers from taking pictures of it.
The lieutenant general was awarded medals of Suvorov, “For Distinguised Conduct in Military Service” and “For Bravery”. The latter was definitely given for taking part in military actions. He did not manage to get the Russian Defense Ministry’s medal “For Participation in Military Operations in Syria” because his trip unexpectedly ended up.
Russia’s military attache Maxim Kazantsev was not present at the funeral; neither were the brigade commander of the 5th Tank brigade or the commander of the 36th Army. But there were two Russian Major Generals whose car had diplomatic number plates. Who are they? We do not know. In any case, Major Generals in the Russian Federation usually lead divisions (each division consists of around 15,000 troops), which highlights the respect to the late Mr Bekish.
In any case, his story still has more questions than answers.