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Oleg served in Syria in a military unit, which on paper did not officially exist, but which was known as the "Wagner Group;" he fought on the side of the Syrian pro-government forces. It was formed of experienced fighters commissioned by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. Oleg took part in the battles for the liberation of Palmyra. His salary was 4,500 euros a month plus bonuses.
Russia launched a military operation in Syria, torn by civil war, more than a year ago - 30 September 2015. Since then a lot of things have changed. If then the house of Assad was held on the balance of the death, after the Russian intervention loyalists managed to repel Palmyra in the Islamic state and to win a landslide victory in Aleppo.
All these successes badly battered in the hell of war, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) would have been unthinkable without the support of Russia. It causes the air and missile attacks on opponents of the government forces, supplying arms and trains some units.
Officially Russian contingent does not contain soldiers that perform the "dirty work" - "Wagner Group". Such a department or a private military company does not formally exist. In fact, the Russians had time to do some fighting in different parts of Syria against the Islamic state, and against the "green" - the various factions that the West considered the moderate opposition.
"I was an employee, and I do not care about this war. I like this job if I did not like it, I would not work there," Oleg says.
Oleg is not worried that he could be called an assassin, "That's right, I went for money."
"Wagner Group" is no ordinary private military company. It is a miniature army. In some circles, fighters of the subdivision are called musicians; the unit commander chose the name after the German composer Richard Wagner. According to some reports, for this callsign hiding 47-year-old lieutenant colonel Dmitry Utkin. He served in the Special Forces in the Pechora. In Syria, not for the first time - before it is officially worked with the private military company known as "Slavic body."
The company hired to guard the captains of the Syrian oil fields and columns in Deir ez-Zor. However, in October 2013 in the city of Al-Suhna guards got into serious trouble: have entered into an unequal battle with the jihadists of the Islamic State.
Following these events, the contract between the customer and the guards broke. According to Oleg, they did not agree the payment, "Syrian bumps" refused to pay extra for a dangerous job and began to threaten the Russians. "Slavic body" went out of Syria.
"Wagner Group" has other, more serious customer - the Ministry of Defense of Russian Federation. Before rollover Syria autumn 2015 "musicians" were three-month training at the site Molkyno in direct vicinity of the base of a separate brigade of the Main Intelligence Directorate. In Syria "Wagner Group" got on airplanes. And it's not ships "Aeroflot", smiling, says Oleg. Fighters carried on transport planes 76 Division of VAT, which is stationed in the Pskov region.
Equipment, including artillery and tanks, sea tossed by the so-called "Syrian Express" - the Russian Navy ships from Novorossiysk in Tartus. From various sources that the group sent to Syria twice for a short time in autumn 2015 to participate in a long-term operation in the winter-spring of next year. Each trip - a separate contract. Generally, people from "Wagner Group" are experienced fighters who were a few conflicts. Although the recruitment ads in newspapers not see, the group had problems with a set of experts.
Oleg acknowledges that went to Wagner's not the first time - do not trust: "Practically, get an acquaintance and nothing more. As such a free set there. When typing conduct several tests: the use of alcohol and drugs. More physical tests."
Among "Wagner Group" there are many of those who fought on the side Donbas separatists. They are additionally checked on a polygraph. There may even ask whether they are agents of the FSB. The group has its own security department, which is struggling with the leaks. Find photos condottiere Russian network - a great success. This offense, which entails severe penalties for those guilty.
In Syria, the soldiers were paid 300,000 rubles (about 4,500 euros) a month plus bonuses. There was also a kind of insurance system: the wounding of about 300 000 and the cost of treatment in hospitals of quality. For death - five million rubles family. Although legally contract with a group of Wagner - worthless piece of paper, Oleg confirms: paid every last penny and more. But full security are not talking.
- Do you have at least some protection?
- From what?
- From the state.
- I think not.
Syrian Civil War is ruthless; interests of many countries are intertwined here. On both sides of the front are fighting hundreds of groups with different motivations, but none can deny cruelty. Why this senseless war Russia Oleg prefers not to think. "Smart wars I have not yet seen," he says.
According to Oleg, the government-controlled areas dominated by mainly secular lifestyle. Woman in burqa - a rarity, though many wear the hijab. In the liberated areas of the local population Latakia most Assad. "In Latakia range of portraits of Assad and Hafez Assad - father of the president. And local show no relationship. This is a civil war - you are either for or against. If you try to be neutral, then you will most likely be bad," describes Oleg.
Local treat Russians well, and Syrian troops almost worship. "We are for them - move. I mean, they are very happy that the Russians arrived. Finally, they think, again, I can sit and drink mate, let the Russians fighting - says Oleg. - When we arrived in one city, they are all night dancing in the streets, fired into the air with joy. But they then upset when we left."
Wealthy Murek after the departure of the Russians "musicians" Syrians left. Years of war depleted manpower of the Syrian Arab Army. Coupled with the lack of fighting spirit and military training, combat-ready units are only a few: "First, they have no training, they cannot even shoot. Secondly, they have a terrible attitude to arms: they did not even clean."
Largely because, according to different sources, "Wagner Group" was used as the fire department - it has acted where it was most difficult and, except for operations in Palmyra, small groups.
In Latakia because of the inaction of Syrians "Wagner group" suffered significant losses. Oleg transfers heard from colleagues circumstances of the war with poorly concealed irritation. On the day the Russians were to attack the Syrians cover the mountain and to suppress enemy firing points on the neighboring heights. After the artillery barrage Syrians refused to go on the attack. Group Wagner had to work on myself. The rise of the mountain took place without incident, but in the upper Russians were under fire from three sides.
"Mountain is totally bold. If you are not in the trenches, this is the end. If there are wounded, they are needed to be evacuated. How many people are retiring? At least two. The path on which the boys raised came under fire; they could not go. They had to go down mined slope," says Oleg.
The Russians tried to raise allies attack force - jumped them in the trenches and shot at his feet, but they have not budged. "And the Syrians did not stop the fire on the top. So, our shot in the ass. It was hell," complains Oleg.
According to him, the fall of the "Wagner Group" lost in killed about 15 people. Half of them in one day: the gap ammunition in camp. What was Oleg knows sounding version of the American mortar shells or bombs. Winter-spring losses were more exact figures but it could not be called.
This is not the only reason why Oleg does not like government forces. "They steal everything that is not fixed. I saw how they dragged the toilet," he explains.
However, Oleg is not a high opinion about the "boom" - the so-called armed opposition, which is considered moderate in the West. According to him, under the concept of Free Syrian Army should understand the hundreds of groups, including the Islamist wing that occasionally fight each other for territory: "They also need something to eat." Although acknowledges: "Greens are different."
In 2016, "Wagner Group" united and moved in Palmyra to fight the Islamic state. If the fall in Syria were about 600 mercenaries in the winter-spring of their number doubled. "When Palmyra was easier because we all drove to the pile and we performed a holistic task," says Oleg.
ISIS fighters proved themselves as fanatical fighters: they sow fear among Iraqis and Syrians. Oleg also indicates that certain good fight Islamists from Europe, but they are not faced with. "Black" - also different. They are local militias: the fighter machine and nothing more. Fighting a "black" also did not know how. There was a case. Observers reported - arrived on unknown machines lined wedge and go at us. Their artillery was covered with machine nobody shot - put all "- he recalls.
However, on the side of the Islamists, there are obvious advantages: "They are very competent. Our occupied the ridge, and they went from Palmyra: Stalingrad suit did not. Why do it - people have saved and went away. So always small injections are constantly attacking the Syrians."
After completing the task, Wagner group left the city. Laura got the winners of Syrian troops who entered the empty city. However, the Russians won the victory of government forces are not retained: December 11, 2016 reflected the Islamists Palmyra.
The fall of the city - eloquent proof that despite all the recent advances, the war is far from over. Supporters of Assad are not able to operate everywhere - not enough strength and specialists. And not only at the front, "Wagner Group" used including repair techniques.
"In Hama, there is a huge armored plant. Before the arrival of our guys, Syrians repaired two tanks per month. When we arrived ours, they immediately began to give out 30 tanks a month. They worked from morning to evening: they were there, the poor, even in a city not allowed. Our all gone, and these repairers there remained," says Oleg.
"Wagner Group" brought from Syria in late spring this year. The latest operation was the Russians sweep neighborhoods near the airport near Palmyra. "Among the palm trees and the labyrinth of stone fences," - says mercenary.
Since then, signs of Russian participation in the war is not recorded. After the liberation of Palmyra Ministry of Defense held in the ancient amphitheater city concert. Played music of Prokofiev. It is possible that musicians can be in the city again. Only it will be "musicians" with guns - illusory "Wagner Group." Oleg is ready, "Of course I will go. Africa or wherever. I do not care where, I really like this job."