Video allegedly shows unidentified Russians torturing a prisoner with a sledgehammer

By Oliviero Reusser

Damascus - Yesterday, a video emerged that allegedly shows Russian speaking armed men torturing a man on the ground with a sledgehammer. The man on the ground, pinned to the ground by one, is alleged to be Syrian and said to be an ISIS prisoner captured by the group. He has his hands and leg smashed in by one man and is repeatdly mocked and beaten in the video. The video can be seen at the end of the article. Warning: Very graphic content. 

Despite most uploaders claiming that the video shows regular Russian soldiers on mission in Syria, this is unlikely to be the case. While the language spoken in the video clearly gives away the fact that these are Russian nationals, the uniforms and equipment suggest that it is highly unlikely that these troops are part of Russias special operation forces, often embedded with Syrian government troops on the frontlines in Syria. 

Pictures of the camo and uniform of people in the video.

Pictures of the camo and uniform of people in the video.

The uniforms of the people in the video are not uniform and do not resemble the camouflage usually worn by Russian forces in Syria. One person, the one swinging the hammer, is even wearing sneakers. The possibility that this happened off-duty and thus a more relaxed dress code existed is however possible. 

In the beginning of the video, a cut off head can also be seen lying on the floor. It is unclear how exactly it got there and who it might belong to. 

According to the Conflict Intelligence Team, a group of people analysing Russias involvement in the Syrian war and the Ukraine conflict using open source information, the group of people seen in the video most likely belongs to the "Wagner PMC" group. "Wagner" is a group of Russian mercenaries, paramilitary forces hired by either private people or the Russian Ministry of Defence in order to fight in Syria. The video appears to be shot in a sandy, deserty area; this seems plausible, giving that most of the fighting by government forces in Syria is recently happening in the eastern desert areas of the country, where Russians are also present. According to several reports and the CIT, these private military contractors are paid to guard oil, gas and phosphate fields in the Palmyra area in eastern Syria. Another thing that can be seen in the video and also noted in the analysis is the fact that the weapons worn by the fighters in the video (an AK-74 assault rifle and a RPK-74 machine gun) appear to be non-camouflaged and not heavily modified, something that Russian SSO in Syria like to do. Below one can see the equipment of a Syrian special forces soldier killed by ISIS in early 2016. The picture was distributed by ISIS Amaq media channels back then. 

Equipment of Russian soldier killed by ISIS in early 2016 near Palmyra

Equipment of Russian soldier killed by ISIS in early 2016 near Palmyra

In the background of the video, one can hear a Russian song, which, according to the CIT, is a song about Russian Special Forces and talks about the Chechen war. Another picture shows the slogan written on the back of one of the fighers, which reads "I'll hurt you really really badly". 

Patch/Slogan seen on the back of one of the fighters

Patch/Slogan seen on the back of one of the fighters

At the beginning of the video, one of the people involved says "Lets start, ISIS". This indicates that it is possible that the tortured prisoner lieing on the ground is an ISIS fighter taken into custody during fighting in the area. So far, many circumstances surrounding this video remain unknown and unconfirmed, something that will likely stay this way for some time.

The video can be seen below; Warning, Graphic footage.