Russia: Trial over compensation for mercenary’s death in Syria

The Russian authorities deny the existence of the so-called private military company Wagner that was looking after the interests of Moscow in Syria and Ukraine’s Donbas.

But in June a Russian court considered a case over the compensation for the dead mercenary.

Money for coffin

5 mln Russian rubles ($80,000) – this much a family gets for each killed in Syria. This is the sum received by Svetlana, the widow of Russian citizen Andrey Litvinov. She claims that her husband was killed when ‘picking strawberries in Syria’. The woman failed to name the organization, under the wing of which her husband ‘picked strawberries, although she had received money on behalf of her husband from the company.

Andrey Litvinov’s father near his son’s grave, photo by BBC

Moreover, Andrey’s parents openly say that their son, who experienced the war in Chechnya, went to Syria to fight and earn money for a ‘barn and a new car’.

In May 2017, Litvinov went to Wagner’s training base in Krasnodar region. At the end of the month, he sent his ring, work book, driving license and other documents to the wife. According to the man, they would not have been necessary in Syria.

Cannon fodder

In addition to regular Russian troops supporting the forces of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, there are units of Wagner, which is formally a volunteer company. However, its mercenaries are trained at firing ranges of Russia’s Defense Ministry. They have already been spotted in actions against the Ukrainian army in Donbas.

Since 2015, when the war in Donbas became positional and Russia got involved in a new foreign campaign in Syria, the mercenaries have been sent to the Middle East. Moreover, the recruitment of new mercenaries began among Donbas militants.

A Wagner soldier killed in Syria

Russia seems to be eager to show their own people the propaganda picture of a war without much pain. Accordingly, for land operations, in which anti-Assad forces can show real resistance, mercenaries, not soldiers of the Russian regular army, are used.

In July 2018, it was reported that one more Russian private military company (PVC) was operating in Syria.

Andrey Litvinov was killed on September 28, 2017 in a battle in the Syrian province of Homs. According to his parents, ‘incineration of body’ was stated as a death cause in the certificate. Relatives of other Wagner soldiers received similar certificates.

Mercenary Kirill Ananiev killed in Syria

Igor Strelkov-Girkin, the former head of Donbas separatists, says that Wagner fought against the Ukrainian army near Debaltsava in early 2015, and then became the cannon fodder in Syria:

“It is our private military contractors (along with Hezbollah)suffering considerable losses that are mopping up the remains of the enclaves on the border near Jordania and the Golan heights. In fact, the main burden of this war has come upon this private military company.”

Family affair

At first, the issue of money was not raised in the Litvinov family, but then the parents of the dead soldiers came to his widow and asked to share: they wanted to have one million. But the woman refused saying that they did not need money as they were too old…

Т-72 in Molkino range. Photo by Vitaly Timkiv / ТASS / Vida Press

In April 2018, Nadezhda and Victor Litvinov filed a claim with the requirement to include 5 mln of compensation into the inheritance of their late son. If they won, the money would have been split among all heirs.

Alexander, a brother of the deceased, visited the mercenary base, he told in court:

“I went to the place where my brother joined them. I was at the base of the GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate] commandos of the Ministry of Defense in Molkino pretending that I also wanted to enlist.” he started telling his story, but the judge interrupted him.

The court did not recognize the existence of Wagner company and rejected the parents’ claim.

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