The Horrible Truth for Russian Wagner Mercenaries – the War in Syria that Nobody Talks About
RIGA, (BM) – Mercenaries of the Russian private military company Wagner, among which are also snipers from Latvia, allegedly tortured and murdered a Syrian man and desecrated his corpse. Several of the mercenaries have been identified by the independent media outlet Novaya Gazeta.
In summer 2017, a video circulated the web depicting several Russian-speaking armed men, presumably Wagner mercenaries, beating a man of Arab appearance in civilian clothing with a hammer and laughing while doing it. The faces of the torturers were covered.
But a new turn of events took place in November 2019, when additional video footage from the same incident appeared. In the second video, the tortured man is lying motionless on the ground – either unconscious or already dead. The video shows one of the mercenaries using a knife to cut off the man’s head, while the others are cheering him up and suggesting to use a shovel to slice the bone.
Afterwards, the shovel is used to cut off the victim’s hands. “Leave the legs, we will hang him by them,” one of the mercenaries is heard commenting. The Ventspils Civil Registry Office confirmed that the identified torturer is a former Latvian solider, Corporal Aivars Lembergs, who seems to have successfully joined Wagner ranks.
In the fourth video, the victim’s body without the head and hands can be seen hanging by the legs. On his chest is written in Russian “For the VDV” (VDV is the acronym for the Russian Airborne Troops) and “For the city with a tomorrow” (this is the slogan of Venstpils). The body is then drenched in gasoline and set on fire. The mercenaries continue laughing and making cynical remarks.
The Arab press was able to identify the victim. Jesr Press reported that it is 1986-born Mohammad Taha al Ismail Abdallah from Deir ez-Zor. According to the media outlet, he fled Syria during the war and worked at a brick factory in Lebanon.
He returned to Syria in June 2017 and was immediately called up for service in Bashar al-Assad’s army. He deserted, but was caught and mercilessly killed at the Al-Sha’ir oilfield in province of Homs.
Despite all of the mercenaries’ faces being covered, journalists were able to identify several of them.
The team at Novaya Gazeta used the image of the man’s face and a piece of software capable of finding similar faces in the social networks VKontakte and draugiem.lv. This method allowed uncovering several photographs and identifying Russian citizens, as well as Latvian residents from the city of Ventspils.
The senior prosecutor of Ventspils Gundega Mertena confirmed to media that the photographs and documents provided by Syrian and Russian colleagues allowed to identify the following Latvians: former corporal in the Latvian National Armed Forces Aivars Lembergs; triple murder convict Aldis Gobzems; internationally-wanted Didzis Šmits, who is accused of a murder committed by a group; and the former head of the Ventspils prison Armands Krauze.
Consequently, a criminal case has been initiated on the grounds of participating in a foreign military conflict. The mentioned mercenaries from Latvia face a life sentence with the confiscation of property.
Novaya Gazeta wrote that Latvian law enforcement authorities are in possession of the men’s passport copies, as well as hand-written forms, biographies and confidentiality statements from the security department of Wagner.
The rest of the torturers can be identified by Russian and Latvian investigators, if they will elect to do so, Novaya Gazeta expressed. Two of the persons in the video are referred to by their aliases Crab and Wolf. At the time when Novaya Gazeta was preparing the article, a photograph was published online depicting the place of the incident and four mercenaries posing next to the hanged body. It is possible they are former corporal in the Latvian National Armed Forces Aivars Lembergs; triple murder convict Aldis Gobzems; internationally-wanted Didzis Šmits, who is accused of a murder committed by a group; and the former head of the Ventspils prison Armands Krauze.
It was already reported that the private military company Wagner is linked with the Kremlin and the entrepreneur Yevgeniy Prigozhin – Putin’s close associate. Information on the activities of Wagner mercenaries first appeared in connection with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the military operation in Syria.
Now, information has appeared also on the activities of Wagner in several countries in Africa, for instance, Mozambique.
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Author: Sandis Tocs
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BulgarianMilitary`s editorial stance.