The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that two “military personnel” died in a mortar attack on its Khmeimim airbase in Syria’s Latakia Province on December 31, but denies reports on the alleged destruction of seven Russian warplanes.
The statement comes amid reports from Russian newspaper Kommersant that the attack destroyed four Su-24 bombers, two Su-35S fighters, and an An-72 transport plane and an ammunition depot. According to the paper, more than ten military servicemen could be injured.
"A report in the Kommersant newspaper on the alleged destruction of seven Russian warplanes at the Hmeymim airbase is fake. Russia’s air group in Syria is combat ready and continues to accomplish all its missions in full," the ministry said.
More than 40 Russian military personnel have died in Syria since Moscow launched a campaign of air strikes in September 2015, in many cases using Hmeimim as a base.
On January 3, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that one of its military helicopters crashed in Syria, killing both pilots aboard. The ministry said the Mil Mi-24 military helicopter crashed due to a “technical malfunction” on December 31 while it was flying to the Hama Military Air Base in Hama.
The Russian ministry of defense has denied reports of its military aircraft being shot at by Syrian opposition forces or IS militants. It has however confirmed that one of its Mi-24 aircraft crashed in Syria killing both the pilots aboard
Russia is extending its military presence in Syria by upgrading the bases in Tartus and Khmeimim into permanent military centers, Moscows defense ministry said Tuesday. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was quoted as saying by local media on Tuesday that the ministry has started forming a permanent grouping of forces at the Tartus naval facility and the Hmeymim airbase in Syria
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