Russian helicopter shot down in Syria

Eric Sof

A Russian Mi-8 helicopter has been shot down by ground fire in Syria following delivery of humanitarian supplies to Aleppo, the Defense Ministry said. Three crew and two officers from Russia’s Reconciliation Center died, according to a Kremlin statement.

“On August 1, an Mi-8 transport helicopter has been shot down by ground fire in Idlib province after a delivery of humanitarian aid to the city of Aleppo. Three crew members and two officers from the Russian reconciliation center in Syria were on board,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.

The helicopter was returning to the Russian airbase at Khmeimim, the statement added. The ministry has not yet revealed the identities of those on board.

The Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria has operated at Khmeimim airbase since February. It contributes to peace talks between the Syrian government and moderate opposition factions not aligned with IS, Al-Nusra Front, or other terrorist groups.

The center also oversees ceasefire agreements between belligerent parties and the delivery of humanitarian supplies to various parts of Syria. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed in a statement later in the day that all those on board are dead.

Shortly after the crash, a number of on-the-spot videos have emerged online, allegedly showing helicopter debris, including a tail rotor and parts of the fuselage. At the moment, we cannot verify the authenticity of those videos.

It is the third Russian helicopter lost in action in Syria this year. In July, a Mi-25 attack chopper was shot down near Palmyra, killing two Russian pilots. The aircraft had been engaging the advancing Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants at the Syrian Army’s request when it was taken down, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

In April, a Mi-28N attack helicopter crashed while performing a flight near the city of Homs, with the Defense Ministry stressing it was not shot down. The crash left both pilots dead, with technical failure cited by Moscow as the likely cause of the accident.

Last October, another Mi-8 helicopter was badly damaged and then destroyed by IS fighters after an emergency landing in the middle of a search and rescue operation to extract a surviving co-pilot of a Su-24M bomber jet shot which was down by a Turkish Air Force F-16.

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