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>> The battle for Syria may have cost Russia more lives than it cares to admit. Evidence gathered by Reuters shows 18 Russian citizens have died in fighting since January the 29th. The official Kremlin statistic is just 5. A higher figure comes after intense fighting to retake Palmyra from Islamic state.
Russia's defense ministry has not mentioned a large scale ground operation in the Syrian City. But Reuters is independently verified at least ten of those killed died in the Palmyra area. The findings during an interviews with family members, cemetery workers and evidence collected by investigative bloggers. In every case, Reuters has spoken to someone who knew the dead man.
The figures also show Russian military contractors rub in the servicemen making up the majority of those killed. Moscow hasn't accommodated on Reuters findings. But it might not be something that Kremlin wants in the public domain. The casualties represent one of the highest tolls for Russia in Syria since the start of its intervention.
All after last March, President Vladimir Putin announced a partial drawdown. Next year, he'll be fighting his own battle closer to home, seeking re-election. He may not want casualty figures to feature in the campaign.