A Russian army helicopter hovers over one of the ruins of the historical city of Palmyra, Syria, on Saturday. Syrian army troops, with the help of allied Russian forces, recaptured Palmyra and the surrounding areas from the militant group Islamic State on Thursday. A Russian soldier died near Palmyra on Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed Monday. Photo by Youssef Badawi/EPA
March 6 (UPI) -- A Russian contract soldier died last week when Islamic State militants attacked Syrian pro-government forces near Palmyra, Russia's Defense Ministry said Monday.
"Artem Gorbunov died on March 2 near Palmyra when repelling Daesh terrorists' attempts to advance on the positions of Syrian [government] troops, where Russian military advisers were present," a statement issued by the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Gorbunov, 24, was awarded a posthumous state decoration and buried at a cemetery in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod. His wife, Sofya, paid tribute to him Saturday on Vkontakte, a Russian social media website.
Since the beginning of Russia's operation in 2015, 28 servicemen have been killed, according to the Defense Ministry.
The Islamic State first captured Palmyra in May 2015. The Syrian Arab Army, with help from Russian warplanes and its allies, took back Palmyra on March 27, but lost it on Dec. 11. The Islamic State was driven out again Thursday by President Bashar al-Assad's Syrian Arab Army with help from the Russian Air Force.
Last week, Russian Major Gen. Petr Milyukhin was injured by Islamic State mines in Palmyra and was transported to a Moscow hospital. He lost both legs, according to Infox.ru.