MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian general met reporters at the Defense Ministry in Moscow on Wednesday to deny reports that he had been killed by rebel forces in Syria and was shown on television looking well.
“I want to confirm that I am alive and well. I am in good health and I’m living in Moscow,” Vladimir Petrovich Kuzheyev, a reserve general, was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass news agency.
Russian television briefly showed footage of Kuzheyev, in a blue shirt and no tie, at the Defense Ministry.
A Syrian rebel group said it had killed a Russian general working as an adviser to Syria’s Defense ministry in an operation in the western Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.
The video, sent to Reuters, showed what the rebels said was a copy of the general’s ID, as issued by the Syrian military, and named him as Vladimir Petrovich Kochyev.
The difference between that spelling and the name of the general who appeared in Moscow may be due to the way the Cyrillic letters were transcribed.
Kuzheyev did not make clear whether he had been in Syria. But Interfax news agency quoted a security source as saying he had been there advising the Syrian Defense Ministry before being transferred to the reserves in 2010. It said he now lived in Moscow.
Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying the report of his death was a “bald-faced lie.”
Russia is one of the few countries that has backed Assad diplomatically ever since the popular uprising against his rule began 17 months ago. It is believed to have several hundred military personnel in Syria.
Reporting by Thomas Grove and Steve Gutterman, Editing by Tim Pearce