Russia denied on Wednesday claims by the Free Syrian Army that it had killed a Russian general who was advising government forces loyal to president Bashar Assad.
Russian news agency RIA Novosti said that Vladimir Petrovic Kojaiv had met with journalists at the Defense Ministry Wednesday to personally dismiss the report.
“I want to express thanks to the media for their attention to my person … I want to confirm that I am well and alive, live in Moscow … I realize that this information is a provocation not only against me but against my country,” RIA Novosti quoted Kojaiv as saying.
The ministry also stated that the “goal of broadcasting such statements is not just to cause a sensation but a clear attempt at a slur toward the Russian army,” RIA Novosti reported.
In a video statement released to Al-Arabiya earlier Wednesday, rebel forces claimed Kojaiv was working as a consultant to the Syrian defense minister and the head of general staff of military affairs.
The rebels said they also killed Kojaiv’s personal translator, Ahmed Aiq, and seized documents containing information about FSA forces.
The video clip included what appear to be the two men’s identity papers.
Kojaiv’s presence in Syria as an adviser shows that Russia is involved in “humanitarian crimes against Syrians” the rebels declared, according to the report.
The FSA said the mission to kill Kojaiv was carried out by its Ghota Western Brigades from Damascus and additional forces from other areas.
Russian forces have been suspected of playing an advisory role in Syria, which is involved in an 18-month long civil war.
A Russian adviser was reportedly on hand in June when Syrian gunners in Latakia shot down a Turkish plane that strayed into their airspace.
Syria, which was a client state of Russia during the Cold War, still maintains close military links with Moscow.
While the Kremlin has distanced itself from Assad as the bloody war has raged, it stopped short of calling for Assad’s ouster or outside intervention in Syria.