Death certificates point to rising toll for Russian military personnel
At least 131 Russian citizens, including military personnel and private military contractors, died in Syria between January and September 2017.
A death certificate issued by the Russian Consulate in Damascus, dated October 4, 2017, identifies the 131th deceased private military contractor Sergei Poddubniy. The location of death is Tiyas in Homs Province, the site of a major Assad regime airbase.
It is unclear how many of the dead were involved in Russia’s military intervention, or even how many were killed in action; however, families and other information has established dozens of Russians who perished on the frontline of the Syrian conflict since Moscow stepped up air and ground operations in September 2015. Among those slain this year is Lt. Gen. Valery Asapov, who was the commander of the 5th Army in eastern Russia before deploying in eastern Syria. Maj. Pyotr Milyukhin was seriously wounded in March by a roadside bomb near Tiyas, losing both legs and an eye.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement on Friday: “We do not have information about individual citizens who visit Syria. With that, I consider this question dealt with.”
The Russian Defense Ministry’s official death toll of military personnel in Syria this year is 16. Reuters has established 26 fatalities interviews with relatives and friends of the dead and with local officials in their hometowns.
The death certificate of Sergei Poddubniy:
Russia’s Conflict Intelligence Team reports the latest fatality:
A "Wagner PMC" mercenary Anton Dobrygin has been killed in a roadside IED explosion in Syria. pic.twitter.com/rQYLtXKDHo
— CIT (en) (@CITeam_en) October 28, 2017
Assad Regime Rejects UN Blame Over Sarin Attack on Khan Sheikhoun
The Assad regime’s Foreign Ministry has rejected the formal report of its responsibility for the April 2017 sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria, killing at least 92 people and wounding hundreds.
The Ministry offered no evidence to counter the investigation of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Instead it said the UN-OPCW findings were upon the instructions of the US Administration and Western countries.
A Ministry official said the regime no longer has any banned chemicals and considers the use of chemical weapons immoral.
Despite the regime’s promise to hand over all stocks after its August 2013 sarin attacks near Damascus killing at least 1,400 people, it retained some chemical capability.
The regime’s military has carried out numerous assaults with chlorine, eventually being blamed by the UN-OPCW for three of them in 2014. In addition to its findings over Khan Sheikhoun, the OPCW said sarin was used in a strike on the town of Latamneh in northern Hama Province five days earlier.
Starvation Threat in Besieged East Ghouta Near Damascus
The Assad regime’s ongoing siege has brought people to the verge of starvation in the East Ghouta region near Damascus, both residents and aid workers say.
The area has been cut off since 2013, but the situation worsened in March when pro-Assad forces closed down smuggling tunnels and in July when the the regime-run al-Wafideen checkpoint, used by war profiteers to sell food behind the siege, halted operations.
As the regime defies a Russian-backed “de-escalation zone” and continues to shell and besiege the opposition-held suburbs. Cases of malnutrition among children have almost doubled in the last two months at one clinic.
At least 1,200 children in eastern Ghouta now suffer from malnutrition with 1,500 others at risk, a spokeswoman for the UN children’s agency UNICEF said.
Pediatrician Amani Ballour explained:
The child that we consider normal in Ghouta is the child whose weight is on the lowest end of the normal weight scale. We don’t have fully healthy children. The main reason is the lack of food and nutrition.
There are children who we previously classified as at risk of malnutrition, who are now classified as medium-level acute malnutrition or extreme-level acute malnutrition cases.
One 2 1/2-year old, Hala al-Nufi, weighs less than five kg (11 pounds) because of a metabolic disorder and the lack of food. Mothers asy they are too hungry to breast feed, with one pleading about her six-month-old twins:
I put the child to the breast, but there is no milk. I am not eating. I slept without supper last night,”
Sometimes I hit myself against the wall. For God’s, sake open the road. In the name of the Prophet, I kiss your hands and feet, open the road for us. We are going to die of hunger. We are eating from the trash bins.
Dr Mohammad Katoob said one person is now dying each week because of the siege: “With each passing day we lose more of our medical capacity and supplies. We expect more deaths in the days to come.”
Bakeries shut on Wednesday because of lack of supplies. The price of bread has risen to about 1500 Syrian pounds ($3) for 750 grams (1 lb.).
The Assad regime has repeatedly refused to give permission to the UN and other agencies to deliver assistance to East Ghouta. Meanwhile, it is continuing to shell the area, with at least nine people killed in the town of Douma on Wednesday.