Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Tuesday announced that one of its active duty servicemen had died in Syria, the first confirmed death of a soldier there since Russian Federation began an airstrike campaign in the war-torn country late last month.
But the activist, Sergei Krivenko, said that his defence ministry sources told him “about 10 days ago” that a Russian soldier had died “at the base” in Syria. Other reports of Russian military personnel deaths in Syria still remain unconfirmed.
“It’s a 90 percent probability that the shell was sacked by the militants”, the source told Reuters, referring to rebel groups that the Syrian army, backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and fighters from Iran, has been fighting.
The first death of a Russian soldier in Syria was confirmed Tuesday with Russian government authorities saying the death was a suicide, Reuters reported.
In an interview with Reuters news agency at their home, Alexander and Svetlana Kostenko said their son Vadim had sounded cheerful over the phone on Saturday, the day he died while working at the airbase on the Syrian coast.
“According to preliminary investigation, including the analysis of SMS in his phone, the death of the contractor was caused by the problems in his personal relationships with a girlfriend”, the Ministry of Defense said, according to Russia’s state-controlled news agencies.
Kostenko’s funeral will take place in his home village of Grechanaya Balka in the southern region of Krasnodar.
Vadim’s younger sister, Katya, and his aunt, Anna Musienko, said they also did not believe he had killed himself.
Russian troops have been providing airstrikes and artillery in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since Russian forces began combat operations September 30.
“The sides also discussed current issues of Russian-Syrian relations, including a possibility of organizing another round of intra-Syrian contacts in Moscow”, the ministry said. But a number still exist, led mostly by former Syrian military officers who defected from the army.
In the four weeks since Russia entered the conflict in Syria, Moscow has waged a fierce campaign for the hearts and minds of ordinary Russians.
“It was either an illness or trauma”, said Krivenko, the head of the Citizen and the Army rights group.
The Wall Street Journal quoted a Russian defence source on Saturday stating that a serviceman had been killed in Syria while mishandling weapons.
Officials have previously denied accusations from Kiev and the West that it sent regular troops to eastern Ukraine to prop up pro-Kremlin insurgents.
“As a result of this, according to Western media reports, non-combatants are allegedly being killed”, Antonov said, denouncing the reports as “anti-Russian smears”.
Earlier this year, the Kremlin signed off on a law making all military deaths a state secret.