Russia helicopter shot down over Syria’s Idlib, five on board believed dead
A Russian helicopter delivering humanitarian aid to the Syrian city of Aleppo has been shot down in Idlib province, with reports suggesting the five people on board are killed.
Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday that the Mi-8 helicopter was shot down while returning to Russia’s air base on the Mediterranean coast from a mission for delivering humanitarian goods to the war-wracked city of Aleppo in north.
The statement added that three crew members and two officers were on board the chopper, saying their exact fate is still unknown.
A later statement by the Kremlin said the five are believed to have died.
“As far as we know from the information we’ve had from the Defense Ministry, those in the helicopter died, they died heroically, because they were trying to move the aircraft away to minimize victims on the ground,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, expressing condolences over the deaths of the five Russians.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the downing of the helicopter. Militants from various terrorist groups are present in Idlib.
This is not the first case in which Russian forces have lost aircraft in Syria.
According to a report by The Associated Press, two Russian pilots were killed in the central Homs province in July when their Mi-25 helicopter was shot down by what the Defense Ministry said were Daesh terrorists.
An Mi-28N helicopter gunship also crashed near Homs in April, killing both crew members.
A Russian bomber plane was shot down by a Turkish jet along the Syrian border in November 2015, and one of the two pilots was shot and killed from the ground after ejecting.
The attack on the Russian copter comes as the Syrian army, backed by Russia and other allies on the ground, has managed to tighten its grip on militants in various parts of Aleppo.
Earlier on Monday, Syria said the militants had started massive attacks to repel government forces from their positions around the terrorist-held areas.
The downing of the copter marked the deadliest incident on a single mission for the Russian servicemen since Moscow began its air campaign against terrorists in Syria in September 2015. According to official data, 18 Russians have been killed since the air campaign started at the official request of the Damascus government.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The government blames the militancy on some foreign governments, including its northern neighbor Turkey and Arab governments of the Persian Gulf region.