Russia’s Defense Ministry has reported that a Russian major general was killed in eastern Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province on Tuesday after the convoy he was riding in hit an improvised explosive device (IED).
According to the state-owned news agency TASS, the Russian convoy was returning from what the Russian military said was a “humanitarian mission” when it was hit by the IED. Two other Russian officers were wounded. The general was only identified as a “senior military advisor.” He died from his wounds after being evacuated, the ministry added.
The IED attack reportedly took place near the At-Taim oil field, about 15 km outside the city of Deir ez-Zor, an area that has seen frequent violence.
The Ministry of Defense said the IED involved was placed on the side of the road along which the Russian convoy was traveling. No one has yet acknowledged responsibility for the latest attack on Russian troops.
“As a result of the explosion, three Russian servicemen were injured. During evacuation and while receiving medical assistant, a senior Russian military advisor with the rank of major-general died from the serious injuries sustained,” the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
The Russians claim to have lost over 120 soldiers in the fighting in Syria since 2015, although that number could in reality be much higher.
The Russian military said the general will be honored posthumously for his service while his family will receive all possible assistance and support. Another Russian advisor, Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov, was killed in Deir ez-Zor three years ago when an ISIS artillery shell struck him and his translator. Asapov was the commander of the Syrian Fifth Attack Troop Corps of Volunteers. He had also worked undercover during the fighting in Ukraine.
Last month, three Russian and several Turkish soldiers were wounded in Idlib province when a joint military patrol was hit by an improvised explosive device. The increase of attacks against these joint patrols caused the Russian government to temporarily suspend the joint patrols with the Turks.
There are a reported 5,000 Russian troops present throughout Syria in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Russian ground contingent in Syria contains units of Military Police forces. Their mission includes separating Turkish and Syrian forces in the country’s north, assisting in humanitarian aid deliveries, and aiding and assisting Syrian forces in the fight against the separatists in the ongoing civil war. The Russians don’t recognize the troops of the Wagner Group as soldiers in their military. But there are reportedly hundreds of those mercenaries also fighting for the Syrian regime.
The Russian military has been operating in Deir ez-Zor province. On Saturday, Russian forces deployed a mobile water treatment plant in Deir ez-Zor city, which may have been related to the humanitarian mission referenced.
The province has been a hot spot for tensions as the Russians and Syrian troops try to push out the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who dominate Deir ez-Zor, from where they regularly carry out operations against the Islamic State (ISIS), along with U.S. advisors.
Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor contain the vast majority of Syria’s energy resources. The Syrian government wants back control of the resources to try and rebuild the shattered economy. The Kurdish SDF controls the oil fields and has contracted with American forces to protect them. The Turks, who have their own troops and proxy militias in the area, are likewise pushing toward the oil fields. There are also the remnants of ISIS forces in the area that all three of the competing forces fight. This leads to an even more confusing and violent situation.
On Monday, Syrian and U.S. forces engaged in a skirmish in neighboring Hasakah province. The incident left one Syrian soldier dead and two others injured.