Russia is believed to have hundreds of troops and advisors still in Syria. Russia also operates its naval base at Tartus, the only Russian base outside of its borders. Russia also docked weapons for the regime in the port since the uprising began.
UPDATE: 3:47 EST: Russia denies that the general was killed at all.
A source with Russian law enforcement and security agencies has branded as provocation and invention reports by the Free Syrian Army that a Russian general identified as Vladimir Kodzhiyev had been killed in Syria.
"A man with such a name holding the rank of general has never existed, and therefore reports on his death can only be nonsense and invention," he said.