ISIS terrorists drive Russian mercenaries to their death when they refuse to renounce Christianity on camera
Roman Zabolotny, 39, and his comrade, Grigory Tsurkanu, 38, are feared dead after footage of them being taken by ISIS militants emerged in Syria
Isis militants hold Russian mercenaries as war tropies
Russian mercenaries loyal to Vladimir Putin were driven to an almost certain death after they were captured by ISIS fighters.
A father-of-two, Roman Zabolotny, 39, and his comrade, Grigory Tsurkanu, 38, are thought to have been killed in a town square in front of cheering crowds after this clip was taken.
They refused to reject their Orthodox Christian faith to become ISIS -backing Muslims, according to one version of events.
The pair were held last week in intense fighting around the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, an ISIS stronghold in Syria .
Wounded, the video shows them being moved as war trophies in a jihadist vehicle, their legs tethered by rope and hands tied behind their backs.
Tsurkanu appears to be in pain. They have no common language, the ISIS terrorists speak no Russian, but keep trying to ascertain if the two are troops sent by Putin, as they believe.
At one point they try French, to no avail. The jihadists even suspect them of being Iranian.
Yet they were Russian – members of a secret and deniable mercenary force deployed in Syria by the Kremlin, not official troops on the payroll of the Defence Ministry.
Perhaps sensing execution, Zabolotny seeks to communicate with his captors and at one point says: “I have information about weapons.”
The men later appeared in an ISIS propaganda video which claimed inaccurately that the men were serving Russian soldiers.
There are suspicions a third Russian was also grabbed by jihadists but no information has been released about him.
Senior Russian MP Viktor Vodolatsky said: “It is very sad but 99 per cent Roman Zabolotny is not alive, nor is the second prisoner.
“Before filming that video they were given a statement which they had to read.
“In this text they would reject their Orthodox religion, reject their motherland, become Muslim and join ISIS.
“They stayed loyal to the Orthodox faith and their Motherland until the very end, and this is what they were killed by those gangsters for.”
There has been no official confirmation from the Russian authorities about their fate, but Vladimir Putin’s government is coy speaking about such mercenary forces in Syria and other hot spots, even though experts say they work closely with the armed forces.
A local MP in Rostov-on-Don, Zabolotny’s home city, also confirmed the pair had been “executed”, saying it happened the day after the video was made.
“Unfortunately, this is true,” said Anatoly Kotlyarov.
“Information was received that they were executed” in a town square.
His source is “trustworthy” and “the person who told me has never been mistaken in four years of our cooperation, especially when informing about the dead”, he told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.
When asked if there had been secret negotiations between Russian forces and ISIS over the captives, he said this was “secret information” which he could not divulge.
An anonymous friend of father-of-two Zabolotny’s was quoted saying: “Last time I saw him he was about to go there.
“And when this video came out that he was captured, I used my own channels to clarify his fate.
“He is dead. Those b******s executed him.”
Zabolotny was reported to have been a devout Orthodox believer and went to Syria in order to protect Christians from terrorists.
A Russian group had offered to pay $1 million to ISIS for each of the men if they were freed.
A Zabolotny family member said they had not been informed he was dead.
“Negotiations are going on, there is no information about his death,” said the relative.
His father Vasily said: “I am worried about my son, I am hardly coping.
“I am on the edge, sorry, I don’t want to speak more.”
A day ago it was reported that the parents of Tsurkanu had been told by the FSB secret service “not to make any noise” in the media amid hopes he would be released soon.
Tsurkanu was a former Russian paratrooper in the intelligence section of the country’s air assault forces.
The men were believed to be fighting for a group called Wagner private army.
Ruslan Leviev, founder of Conflict Intelligence independent investigation group, said the pair were mercenaries.
“Our experience of watching this conflict tells us that Wagner private army mercenaries are the first to fight,” he said.
“We think it is a strategy of the Defence Ministry of Russia: sending mercenaries to the hottest places, we avoid losses among official soldiers and keep the image of a successful combat operation.”
Earlier, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov sidestepped a question about the fate of the men.
“I repeat once again that, of course, the possible circumstances of their captivity and confirmation of their identity are things that are being dealt with by our relevant agencies,” he said.