Russian transport plane crashes in Syria killing all 39 on board
MOSCOW: A Russian military transport plane crashed in Syria on Tuesday, killing all 39 people on board, Russian news agencies quoted the defence ministry as saying, sharply raising the death toll from the Kremlin's intervention in the Syrian war.
President Vladimir Putin, who is running for re-election later this month, declared in December that the Russian mission in Syria was largely completed, but casualties continue to mount.
The defence ministry was cited as saying that the plane, a Soviet-designed An-26, crashed at Russia's Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province and that initial information suggested the incident may have been caused by a technical fault.
"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," Interfax news agency quoted the defence ministry as saying.
"The crew and the passengers were killed."
Originally, Russian news agencies cited the defence ministry as saying that 32 passengers and crew were killed in the crash, but this was later revised.
Russian state TV cited military officials as saying the aircraft had not been brought down by enemy fire. It said the crash happened as the plane came into land at Hmeymim, and that it came down around 500 metres (550 yards) short of the runway.
Putin, on an election campaign stop in the Ural mountains, was briefed on the crash via telephone by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and expressed his condolences to the relatives and colleagues of those killed, the Kremlin said.
Russia's armed intervention in Syria turned the tide of the conflict in favour of Putin's ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It has been portrayed inside Russia as a display of Russia's resurgent military might.
俄罗斯对叙利亚的武装干涉使得局势朝着有利于普京盟友叙利亚总统Bashar al Assad的方向发展。俄罗斯国内将此形容为俄罗斯军事力量的复兴。
It has, though, come at a cost.
According to a Reuters tally based on official announcements before Tuesday's crash, 44 Russian service personnel have died in Syria since the operation started in September 2015.
In one incident last month, Syrian rebels shot down a Russian warplane. The pilot ejected and died on the ground in a gunfight with rebels.
In addition to those deaths, in December 2016 a plane carrying a Russian military orchestra to Syria crashed in the Black Sea, killing all 92 people on board.
Under a decree signed by Putin, the Russian authorities do not have to disclose all deaths of service personnel in Syria because they are classified as a state secret.