Syrian rebel shelling destroys at least seven Russian planes, report says

Russian dailys report points to countrys single biggest loss of military hardware since launching airstrikes in Syria in late 2015

At least seven Russian planes were destroyed by rebel shelling at the Khmeimim airbase in Syria on 31 December, the Russian daily Kommersant reported late on Wednesday, citing two sources.

If confirmed, the attack would mark the single biggest loss of military hardware for Russia since it launched airstrikes in Syria in autumn 2015. More than 10 servicemen were wounded in the shelling by radical Islamists, the report said.

At least four Su-24 bombers, two Su-35S fighters and an An-72 transport plane, as well as an ammunition depot, were destroyed by the shelling, Kommersant said on its website, citing two military-diplomatic sources.

The attack came days after Vladimir Putin made a triumphant visit to Khmeimim, where he met his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad and told the Russian air force detachment at the base: You are coming back home with victory.

Kommersant said the Russian defence ministry had not commented. Reuters was not able to immediately reach the ministry.

Earlier on Wednesday, the ministry said a Mi-24 helicopter had crash-landed in Syria due to a technical fault and two pilots died.

Last month, Russia began establishing a permanent presence at Hmeymim and a naval base at Tartous although Putin has ordered a significant withdrawal of his military from Syria, declaring its work largely done.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/03/syria-russia-planes-rebel-shelling

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