The Islamic State has reportedly released a video showing the beheading of a Russian intelligence operative accused of spying on the terrorist group in Syria.
According to ISIS representatives, the video released on various social media accounts managed by the organization depicts the killing of Captain Yevgeny Petrenko, a 36-year-old man accused of infiltrating Islamic extremist groups in Kazakhstan and the North Caucasus region of Russia before ultimately being discovered by ISIS counter-intelligence officers last year in Syria.
The video depicts Patrenko, who appears to be under duress, claiming to be an agent for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). He goes on to claim that the Russian government had abandoned him before calling on his country to end its military campaign in Syria.
“I was supposed to infiltrate the special services of the caliphate and the leadership of the caliphate,” the man identifying himself as Petrenko, dressed in a black button-down shirt and a black hat, told an interviewer whose face was not visible. “One of my orders was to gain access to Omar al-Shishani or to his circle. But during this, I was discovered and arrested by the security services of the caliphate.”
Shishani is one of the senior-ranking leaders of the Islamic State, but is believed to have been killed in 2016.
Thousands of Russian-speaking militants have joined the Islamic State, with some hailing from the North Caucasus region of Russia and others joining from nations formerly part of the Soviet Union in Central Asia. Although Russia’s campaign against ISIS in Syria tends to take a back seat in the press to their support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his ongoing fight against rebels backed by Turkey and the United States, Russia has been actively engaged in anti-ISIS military operations in the region for years, as well as a concerted domestic effort to prevent any other Russian citizens from defecting to the ranks of the terrorist group.
Although ISIS has released countless videos of the executions they conduct, videos of Russian officials falling prey to ISIS butchers are uncommon. The last video depicting the killing of Russians was released in 2015, and showed Sergey Ashimov and Jambulat Mamayev—accused of being FSB agents—being executed by a child. A shot from that video was included in their newest release.
ISIS continues to lose ground in both Iraq and Syria, with groups from a vast array of ethnic and cultural backgrounds setting aside their differences to engage the Muslim extremists in their remaining strongholds in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria. Despite continuing to lose strongholds, troops, and support, ISIS has stepped up their public-relations efforts, hoping to discourage continued operations against them using horrific films with admittedly high production value.
Many videos released by ISIS look professionally edited and assembled, indicating a combination of self-aware marketing and the proliferation of high-quality video-editing software throughout the world. Many propaganda films depict ISIS fighters being killed by coalition forces, but do so in a manner that makes their death seem heroic or noble. Other films, such as this most recent depiction of a Russian man being beheaded, breaks from a recent shift in film style that seemed to focus less on the gruesome in order to garner more international favor from potential supporters.
Switching back to their gruesome marketing methodology may indicate a growing sense of desperation within the ISIS ranks, as forces from nations with such deep-seated cultural divides as Russia and the United States continue to see eye to eye on only one thing: ISIS needs to be wiped off the map.
You can view the video below.
WARNING: Extremely graphic content
Image courtesy of Al Masdar News