A Mil Mi-28N strike helicopter of the Russian Aerospace Forces crashed in Syria in the early hours of Tuesday morning killing both pilots, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.
“At 01:29, Moscow time on April 12, 2016, a Mi-28N helicopter of the Russian Aerospace Forces crashed during a mission in the area of the city of Homs (in the Syrian Arab Republic). Two crewmembers (of the helicopter) were killed,” the ministry said in a statement received by TASS.
“According to a report from the crash site, the helicopter did not come under fire,” the press service said.
The helicopter was not downed, but the cause of the incident was unclear, the Ministry’s press service reported on Tuesday.
“A group of specialists is working at the crash site to investigate the incident,” the ministry added. The pilots’ bodies had been recovered and brought back to Russia’s air base in Hmeymim in Latakia province, it said.
President Vladimir Putin announced on March 14 that Russia was withdrawing the bulk of its military contingent in Syria. Around half its fixed-wing strike aircraft flew out in the days that followed.
However, Russia continued to ship significant quantities of military supplies to Syria and analysts said the Kremlin had changed rather than diluted its military capabilities, increasingly relying on helicopters to support the Syrian army.
Mi-28N helicopters, broadly equivalent to America’s Apache gunship, took part in the Syrian government operation to drive ISIS out of the ancient city of Palmyra last month, firing anti-tank rockets at armored vehicles.
Russia had suffered two similar aircraft crashes in Syria. Turkey shot down a Russian Sukhoi-24 bomber near the Syrian-Turkish border on Nov. 24 and a helicopter sent to rescue the pilots was then destroyed by rebels after landing.