Next up: we’re tracking how the Kremlin has deployed mercenaries to #Syria. #OnAssignment
Russia says it’s had nearly 50K military personnel rotate in and out of Syria since the beginning of the conflict. An additional 2-3K contract soldiers have been deployed there — though the Kremlin won’t admit it.
About 200-300 of those mercenaries were mowed down by U.S. airstrikes on February 7, after attempting to capture an oil refinery in eastern Syria controlled by the U.S. and its Syrian allies.…
It was notable that after the incident, neither the Kremlin nor the White House admitted that Russian mercenaries had died. @mikercarpenter, who worked at the Pentagon under Obama, says both sides wanted to avoid an escalation.
Mercenaries give the Kremlin “plausible deniability and less responsibility for protecting the lives of soldiers in hot spots,” says @mikercarpenter.
They work for Wagner, a shadowy firm linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Putin ally who made his fortune in the catering business. Now he sometimes does Putin’s dirty work and — according to Robert Mueller — oversaw a troll farm that spread disinformation during the 2016 election.
Prigozhin’s work on behalf of the Kremlin — funding mercenaries and troll farms — demonstrates how Putin has outsourced dangerous and unsavory work to loyalists, providing himself with deniability. #OnAssignment
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