Russia’s Defense Ministry said 32 people were killed when a military transport plane crashed as it prepared to land at an air base in Syria, state media reported.
The An-26 aircraft wasn’t shot down and the likely cause of Tuesday’s crash at Russia’s Khmeimim base in Syria was a malfunction, the ministry said, according to the Tass and RIA Novosti news services. Six crew and 26 passengers died, they reported.
It’s Russia’s largest single official loss of life in the Middle Eastern country since President Vladimir Putin ordered the start of an air campaign in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in September 2015. U.S. forces last month may have killed more than 200 Russian mercenaries who attacked a base held by mainly Kurdish troops, though Russia has denied any official involvement in that clash.
Putin declared victory in the military campaign during a visit to the Khmeimim base in December, when he ordered most Russian forces to return home. Two Russian soldiers died in a mortar attack at the base later that month, according to the Defense Ministry. Rebels opposed to Assad used drones in January to target both the air base and a naval port that Russia operates in Syria.
(c) 2018, Bloomberg · Henry Meyer