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Russia. “Kommersant”. Officers and soldiers paid bribes to go to the war in Syria

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More than 30 officers and soldiers from the Sakhalin Oblast have been convicted of trying to enter the war in Syria with a bribe. The money was appropriated by a military lawyer who had already been convicted of fraud three times before. He not only remained at large, but also in the armed forces, wrote the Russian daily “Kommersant” in its Wednesday publication.


According to the newspaper’s interlocutors, criminal cases against the military were examined by garrison courts in the Sakhalin Oblast.

The offer of “departure to Syria” was made to the soldiers by Ivan Zharkov, who worked as a legal advisor in local units. He claimed to have friends in the Personnel Department of the Eastern Military District who make up the teams to be dispatched to Syria. The lawyer charged various fees. For the “business trip” privates and non-commissioned officers paid 20,000 rubles (over 1,000 zlotys), officers – 30-40,000 rubles.

The soldiers of the engineering troops before leaving for Syria. Archival photo Ministry of Defense of Russia

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Transfers and cash transactions

“Kommersant” wrote that the interested parties paid the lawyer directly or made transfers. The procedure lasted in 2019-2020. The military sent copies of the documents to the WhatsApp mobile application of Żarkov’s phone. According to the materials of the case, the soldiers were interested in being sent on business trips to Syria because everyone who visited the country was assigned veteran status. This meant extra monthly payments and extra days of vacation, more benefits and reimbursement of travel expenses in foreign currencies.

However, none of the Sakhalin soldiers who paid the lawyer reached Syria. The investigation started when the deceived military began to complain to one of the counterintelligence officers.

Conflict in Syria PAP

Lenient sentences

Zharkov, who appropriated bribes, had previously been convicted of fraud three times. The allegations were similar – he was receiving money for leaving for Syria. He defrauded a dozen officers and soldiers who paid him over 250,000 rubles (over 14,000 zlotys).

As he pleaded guilty in full, he was not punished severely – wrote “Kommersant”. The lawyer was sentenced to several months of community service, 10 percent of his earnings were deducted from the state budget.

The military in the Sakhalin region who paid the lawyer have to pay again – they were sentenced by garrison courts to fines – from 30 to 90 thousand rubles. The money is to go to the account of the armed forces. Some of the victims filed complaints with a higher court, which were dismissed.

Russian Su-57 fighter mission in Syria Ministry of Defense of Russia

Russian presence in the Syrian conflict

On September 30, 2015, Russia launched a military operation in Syria against the so-called Islamic State. The authorities in the Kremlin have argued that its goal is to fight jihadist groups. The Russians also argued that “the presence of Russian military forces on the territory of Syria meets the objectives of maintaining peace in the region, is defensive in nature and is not directed against other states.”

Main photo source: Ministry of Defense of Russia

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