ISIS Releases Personal Photos From The Cell Phones Of Dead Russians

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Islamic State released pictures allegedly taken from three dead Russian soldiers in Syria June 23, refuting repeated denials from the Kremlin that any Russian deaths occurred in Syria.

The photos were released on ISIS’s official news channel, Amaq News Agency, along with a video showing the mangled remains of a Russian vehicle in Syria. Russian Major General Igor Konashenkov strongly denied the claims to Sputnik News Agency, saying, “All military personnel whose photographs were published by ISIS terrorist group, their Ukrainian ‘friends,’ as well as the ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ are alive and well, and are located with their units.”

The photos allegedly show the Russian soldiers in Ukraine prior to their deployment to Syria. If confirmed, the official Russian death toll in Syria would be 14 since September, 2015. Russia is often silent about announcing its dead on the battlefield. Russia reportedly has gone so far as to tell family members of dead Russian soldiers from Ukraine not to publicly acknowledge the deaths of their children.

Russian military deaths in Syria are a sensitive domestic topic. Russia’s intervention in Afghanistan in the early 1980s remains deeply unpopular in Russia. Analysts maintain the thousands of Russian deaths in Afghanistan were a large factor in Russia’s withdrawal.

The alleged Russian deaths come after a major ISIS led offensive against the Syrian regime in Raqqa province. Raqqa province is home to the self-declared ISIS capital, the city of Raqqa. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a U.K.-based watchdog organization, confirmed the offensive and a retreat by Regime forces supported by Russia.

Russia began its military intervention in Syria in September, 2015, to support Syrian President Bashar Assad against various rebel groups throughout the country. With Russian support, Assad has made increased progress on the Syrian battlefield, likely ensuring his position for years to come.

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