Dozens killed in Russian military plane crash in Syria

Sheetal Sukhija - Wednesday 7th March, 2018

DAMASCUS, Syria - The Kremlin said on Tuesday that a Soviet-designed An-26 transport aircraft crashed in Syria, killing all 39 people on board.

The Kremlin said in a statement that a Russian military transport plane crashed in Syria on Tuesday.

The Kremlin said that the plane, a Soviet-designed An-26, crashed at Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province. 

According to Kremlin, the cause of the crash may have been a technical malfunction.

Interfax news agency quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying, “According to the latest updates, the An-26 transport aircraft, which crashed while landing at Hmeymim airbase, was carrying 33 passengers and six crew. All of them were members of the Russian Armed Forces. The crew and the passengers were killed.”

According Russian state TV reports, military officials were quoted as saying that the aircraft had not been brought down by enemy fire. 

The report also noted that the plane came down around 500 metres (550 yards) short of the runway at Hmeymim as it attempted to land.

Offering his condolences in a telegram, the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev confirmed the crash took place and said that the service personnel on board were returning to base after completing an unspecified combat mission.

According to the Kremlin, Putin was briefed on the crash via telephone by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, while he was on an election campaign stop in the Ural mountains.

The Kremlin said that the Russian President expressed his condolences to the relatives and colleagues of those killed.

The crash on Tuesday raised the death toll from the Kremlin’s intervention in the Syrian war, which has proved to be a very costly affair for Russia.

In December last year, Putin declared that the Russian mission in Syria was largely completed, yet,  casualties continue to increase.

Analysts have noted that Russia’s armed intervention in Syria have managed to turn the tide of the conflict in favour of Putin’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, despite the constant international criticism against the Syrian leader. 

Within Russia, the country’s support for war-torn Syria has been portrayed as a display of Russia’s resurgent military might.

However, a Reuters report recently pointed out that before Tuesday’s crash, 44 Russian service personnel had died in Syria since the start of the operation in September 2015.

Syrian rebels shot down a Russian warplane in an incident last month.

In the incident, the pilot ejected and died on the ground in a gunfight with rebels.

Before that, in December 2016, a plane carrying a Russian military orchestra to Syria crashed in the Black Sea, leaving all 92 people on board dead.