Photo: independent.co.ukReading Time: 2 minutes
Two Russian pilots have died in a helicopter crash over rebel territory in Syria.
A spokesperson for Russia’s ministry of defence said the Mi-28N attack helicopter came down in Homs province in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
“The bodies of the dead pilots were removed during search and rescue operations and are currently at the Hmeymim Airbase,” he added.
The helicopter icon shows the reported location of the Russian helicopter crash. Rebel-held territory is shown in green and regime areas in red.
“According to a report from the crash site, the helicopter was not shot down.”Activists put the location of the wreckage in rebel-held territory outside of Homs city, where Russian air strikes have recently been reported.
Local opposition groups, al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamist group Ahrar ash-Sham are known to be active in the area.
The pilots’ deaths bring the number of Russian servicemen killed in Syria since the country’s intervention started in September to at least eight. A special forces officer died during battles to drive Isis out of Palmyra last month and the Kremlin had previously acknowledged five deaths, including the pilot of a fighter jet shot down by Turkey and a marine killed by rebels during a mission to rescue him.
Two others were killed in mortar attacks and bombardment, while a 19-year-old soldier died in disputed circumstances at his air base in Latakia.
The United Nations, humanitarian organisations and international politicians have raised concern about the death of civilians and opposition fighters in Russian air strikes, but the Kremlin insists it has been targeting Isis and terrorist groups.
Russian jets are currently supporting troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad, along with allies from Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, in an advances on the so-called Islamic State and rebels.
A fragile “cessation of hostilities” that started between rebels and the regime in February excludes Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, allowing Syrian operations and international air strikes on militants to continue.