The Russian military has confirmed the death of one of its servicemen in Syria for the first time since it launched its campaign of air strikes last month.
The defence ministry in Moscow did not identify the soldier, who it said had committed suicide.
Family members identified him as Vadim Kostenko, 19, a soldier from the southern Krasnodar region, and disputed the official account of his death.
Russia began air strikes in September to bolster Syria’s government.
It started the campaign after President Bashar al-Assad suffered a string of defeats to both rebel forces and Islamic State (IS) militants.
Russia insists that its ground troops are not taking part in combat operations in Syria.
«A contract soldier who served as a technical specialist at the Hmeimim airbase committed suicide while resting after his shift,» said a defence ministry statement carried by Russian news agencies.
The statement also said that text messages reportedly found on the soldier’s phone suggested that he had taken his own life because of problems in his relationship with his girlfriend.