MOSCOW: Russia denied a report in daily newspaper Kommersant that seven Russian planes had been destroyed by rebel shelling at Syria’s Hmeymim air base on Dec. 31, the TASS news agency on Thursday quoted the defence ministry as saying.
“On December 31, 2017, at nightfall, the Hmeymim airfield came under a sudden mortar fire from a mobile militant subversive group. Two military servicemen were killed in the shelling,” the ministry said, TASS reported.
Ministry also stated that reports on seven aircraft destroyed by militants at the Hmeymim airbase in Syria on December 31 are not true. “A report in the Kommersant newspaper on the alleged destruction of seven Russian warplanes at the Hmeymim airbase is fake. Russia’s air group in Syria is combat ready and continues to accomplish all its missions in full,” the ministry said.
The Kommersant newspaper earlier wrote citing some sources that on December 31 militants from one of the terror groups shelled the Hmeymim airbase with mortars destroying four Sukhoi Su-24 bombers, two Sukhoi Su-35S fighter jets, one Antonov An-72 transport plane and an ammunition depot. According to the paper, more than ten military servicemen could be injured.
In the single biggest loss of military hardware for Russia since it launched air strikes in Syria in autumn 2015, more than 10 servicemen were wounded in the attack by “radical Islamists”, the Kommersant report said.
On January 3, the Russian Defence Ministry said that on December 31 Russia’s Mi-24 helicopter crashed due to a technical malfunction during a flight to Syria’s Hama airfield. Both pilots were killed in the crash. The ministry denied reports that the Mi-24 had been in the line of fire.
On Thursday, the Russian Defence Ministry refuted reports on seven aircraft destroyed in Syria.
Russia began establishing a permanent presence at Hmeymim and a naval base at Tartous last month, although President Vladimir Putin has ordered a “significant” withdrawal of his military from Syria, declaring their work largely done.