ISIL reportedly beheads captured Russian soldier in Syria
According to the SITE intelligence group, ISIL has released a video purporting to show the beheading of Russian intelligence officer Col. Evgeny Petrenko.1 The release of the video coincides with Russia’s commemoration of their victory over Germany in the Second World War (Victory Day).
While Russian officials have not confirmed that the execution occurred, if it did it brings the number Russian soldiers killed in Syrian to 39, which does not include the deaths of 28 private military contractors.2 Some have speculated that the official casualty figures significantly understate the number of Russian killed in action in Syria, with the actual number being up to three times larger.3
Even based on the official figures (67) and accounting for the 219 Russians killed by the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268 in October 2015, Russian casualties related to the intervention in the Syrian Civil War are mounting. As more and more Russians die in Syria, regardless of the numerous reasons for Russia’s presence in the country,4 Putin will become increasingly keen to wind down his Syrian foray lest the Russian people become disgruntled with their young men dying in a far off land, all in the name of geopolitical considerations which they care little for.
Although there are reports that Russia is willing to send more ground forces to support Assad,5 such possible deployments are only likely to occur if Assad’s grasp on power becomes precarious. At the moment Assad’s position appears firmly secure and even ascendant. Barring a significant US intervention against him, which is a possibility based on Trump’s apparent foreign policy rashness and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s machinations,6 Assad is not losing control of Syria any time soon.
Even if the situation deteriorates, necessitating further Russian support, Putin will likely deploy Sunni Chechen fighters, which is already occurring,7 before he sends significant number of Russian troops into Syria. In this manner he will be able to minimize Russian casualties thereby helping to maintain his domestic political popularity, as the Chechens are less bothered by casualties, particularly those incurred in a jihad of sorts against the takfiri ISIL.
One wonders how the purported beheading of a Russian officer by ISIL will be covered by the US media. I doubt they will make a big deal of it, as to do so will go against the mainstream narrative that Russia is doing little to fight ISIL in Syria. I also suspect, that media talking heads will merely blame the Russians for what happened, saying it was a product of their unwise intervention in Syria. Such is the anti-Russian sentiment pervading the media.
 http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/05/09/ISIS-releases-beheading-video-of-Russian-intelligence-officer-in-Syria.html , http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/05/09/521184/Daesh-Russia-Syria , http://www.debka.com/newsupdatepopup/20544/ISIS-puts-to-death-a-high-Russian-officer