Russian soldier killed by 'sudden mortar fire' at Syrian government army camp in Hama
A Russian soldier died after being hit by mortar fire in the central Hama province of war-torn Syria, the defence ministry said early on Wednesday.
Captain Nikolay Afanasov was killed by "sudden mortar fire on a Syrian government army camp", the ministry said, indicating that he was part of a group of military instructors who were training Syrian soldiers.
His death raises the number of Russian soldiers killed in combat in Syria to 32, according to defence ministry figures. Another soldier committed suicide during the first month of Russia's operation in Syria which began in September 2015.
The city of Hama is the capital of the governorate of the same name, and is under government control.
Last month, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance outside the capital when he attended Eid al-Fitr prayers in Hama city.
The city has been largely spared the devastation faced by Syrian urban centres like Aleppo, although it has been struck by occasional violence.
Across the rest of the province however, government forces are still battling extremist fighters and allied opposition forces.
The province is of strategic importance to Assad, separating opposition forces in Idlib from Damascus to the south and the regime's coastal heartlands to the west.
Regime forces, backed by heavy Russian airstrikes, launched a major assault in June on territory held by IS in rural parts of Hama.
Moscow intervened in the Syrian war in September 2015 with a series of airstrikes, after rebels won a series of victories against Assad forces.
According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the Assad regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.