Russia breaks official silence to honor soldier killed in Syria

MOSCOW, March 17 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin on Thursday honored a Russian soldier killed in Russia's military operation in Syria, breaking four months of official silence about his death.
By paying tribute to 27-year-old Fyodor Zhuravlyov, Putin tacitly raised the death toll for Russian servicemen in the five-month Syria operation to five. Russian officials previously only acknowledged four deaths.
Putin this week ordered the withdrawal of the bulk of Russia's forces from Syria, saying they had successfully fulfilled most of their objectives. Air force pilots were welcomed back at bases in Russia to brass bands and congratulatory speeches.
The Kremlin has been able to present the mission in Syria as a success in part because Russian military casualties were low. But questions linger about whether the casualty numbers are accurate, and about other costs of the campaign.
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