Russian military transport plane crashes in Syria

All 26 passengers and six crew members believed to have been on board have died 

An-26 planes are twin-engine turboprop civilian and military transport aircraft
An-26 planes are twin-engine turboprop civilian and military transport aircraft

A Russian military transport plane has crashed in Syria killing all 26 passengers and six crew members believed to have been on board, the defence ministry said.

The An-26 plane crashed during landing at Hmeimim airbase, near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, the ministry is quoted as saying by Russian media.

The plane was not fired upon, Russia says, and preliminary data suggests a technical malfunction could have caused the crash

An investigation is now under way.

Hmeimim airbase is Russia's main base for air strikes on rebel groups in Syria - strikes that have enabled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces to recover much lost ground.

Russian strikes are said to have killed many civilians - though Moscow insists that it only targets rebel "terrorist" fighters.

In December 2016, a plane carrying a Russian military orchestra to Syria crashed in the Black Sea, killing all 92 people on board.

There have also been deaths and injuries among Russian forces in Syria. In one incident, in February this year, Syrian rebels shot down a Russian warplane and killed its pilot on the ground after he ejected.

About 300 men working for a Kremlin-linked Russian private military firm were either killed or injured in Syria last month when their column was attacked by U.S.-led coalition forces, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Russian officials said a handful of Russian citizens may have been killed in that incident, but said they were not members of Russia’s armed forces.

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