Families ask Kremlin to admit Russian mercenaries killed in Syria

Igor Kosotorov wasn’t a serving member of the Russian army. But relatives of the 45-year-old grocery shop owner believe he is among scores of Russian citizens killed this month in an airstrike by a US-led coalition near Deir al-Zour, an oil-rich territory in eastern .

After initial denials, Russia’s foreign ministry admitted on Thursday that five citizens were likely to have been killed in the bombing while fighting alongside pro-regime Syrian forces on 7 February. But reports suggest as many as 200 Russian nationals could have lost their lives, which, if confirmed, would be the most lethal clash between US and Russian citizens since the end of the cold war.

While the numbers remain unclear, a picture is emerging of some of those believed to have died; some were battle-hardened veterans of Moscow’s war in eastern , inspired to travel to Syria by patriotism or a resurgent sense of Russian nationalism. Others were simply hoping for a lucrative payday.