The extremist group Islamic State (IS) has issued a video showing the beheading of a man it described as a Russian intelligence officer captured in Syria, but the Russian Defense Ministry suggests no such killing has taken place.
The U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group said on May 8 https://twitter.com/siteintelgroup/status/861704973314392064 that the Russian-language video showed a man dressed in a black jumpsuit kneeling in a desert landscape and urging other Russian agents to surrender.
A bearded man later beheaded the alleged intelligence officer, identified as Colonel Yevgeny Petrenko, with a knife.
Without referring to any specific incident or to anyone by name, the Russian Defense Ministry said, "All armed forces service members from the Russian group of forces in Syria are alive and well and are carrying out tasks in the fight against international terrorism," Russian news agencies reported.
The ministry suggested the video was terrorist propaganda and criticized media that reported on the video.
The identity of the man and the authenticity of the recording, which was released ahead of Russia's May 9 celebrations of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, could not be independently verified.
Russia has been a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war.
The Russian Defense Ministry says about 30 Russian servicemen have died in Syria since September 2015, when Moscow stepped up its military backing of Assad by launching air strikes and other operations.
Russia says it is targeting IS and other extremist groups, but Western governments say the main purpose of the operations is to support the government's operations against rebels.
With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and TASS