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Russian military losses in Syria continue despite withdrawals

Russian servicemen carry the coffin holding the body of Anton Yerygin, a Russian soldier who died after coming under fire from rebels in Syria's Homs province, during a funeral ceremony in Voronezh, Russia, May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Nikita Paukov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia on Thursday buried its eighth serviceman officially acknowledged to have been killed in its military campaign in Syria, suggesting as many have died in combat since the Kremlin announced a partial pullout as before the March announcement.

Moscow has continued sending military hardware to Syria, according to a Reuters analysis of shipping and aircraft data, and its capability is roughly the same as before it announced the drawdown.

Since mid-March, when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the bulk of the contingent in Syria to withdraw, Moscow has acknowledged the loss of four soldiers in combat, the same number as in the previous five months of the campaign.

The latest officially acknowledged casualty of the campaign was a signaler called Anton Yerygin who died on May 7, according to Interfax news agency,

“Yerygin was badly wounded as a result of shelling by militants while he was on assignment accompanying cars of the Russian ceasefire monitoring center,” Interfax quoted a spokesman at Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria as saying late on Wednesday.

Yerygin left for Syria on April 3, two weeks after the declared withdrawal, local website RIA Voronezh reported from his hometown, in central Russia.

“Anton texted or called his mother every day. But then the connection was lost with him,” Sofia Zhenova, a colleague of Yerygin’s mother, was quoted as saying by the website.

In late March, Syrian forces with Russian support recaptured the ancient Palmyra from radical Sunni group Islamic State.

The total official death toll among Russia’s military is nine, but only eight of those were combat deaths. One serviceman committed suicide at an air base in Syria’s Latakia province in October, according to the Russian Defence Ministry.

Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Alexander Winning; editing by Ralph Boulton