Syrian rebel group claims it ‘killed Russian general’

(Reuters) – A Syrian rebel group said on Wednesday it had killed a Russian general working as an adviser to Syria’s ministry of defense in an operation in the western Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.

A video statement from a group calling itself the “Hawks Special Operations Battalion…a division of the Military Leadership of Damascus City and Province”, gave the name of the general as Vladimir Petrovich Kochyev. The video, sent to Reuters, showed what the rebels said was a copy of his ID, as issued by the Syrian military.

The same group claimed responsibility for the assassination of four of President Bashar al-Assad’s top lieutenants in Damascus last month.

There was no immediate comment from the Russian authorities.

Russia, which has an estimated several hundred military personnel in Syria, is one of the few countries still backing Assad diplomatically since a popular uprising against his rule erupted 17 months ago.