Yelena Matveyeva was eagerly awaiting what she hoped would be her husband’s return to Russia from Syria, where he had been allegedly fighting for months as a mercenary alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Spirits buoyed that he could be home in weeks, she decided to buy a new dress. While in a store in Asbest, their hometown in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region, east of Moscow, she got a call from a friend.
Matveyeva said her friend asked her if she had heard anything from her husband or Igor Kosoturov, another military contractor from Asbest. “I said, ‘I haven’t been able to call him for three days,'” Matveyeva recounts. “Literally, in a minute he calls me back and says, ‘Stasa [her husband Stanislav] and Igor are dead.'”