ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A Russian military plane on Tuesday crashed in Syria killing 26 passengers and six crew members on board, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The incident occurred when the aircraft, an An-26 transport plane, crashed during a landing at the Hmeimim airbase, near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, the ministry was quoted as saying by Russian media.
The crash occurred at 3:00 p.m. (Moscow time) and went down at around 500 meters (1,640 feet) from the runway, the ministry reported.
The Defense Ministry noted the plane was not fired upon and that it was investigating the crash, adding that initial findings suggest it might have been a “technical malfunction.”
Russia began its military operations in Syria in September 2015 at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Hmeimim airbase is the main headquarters where Moscow has conducted airstrikes on rebel groups in Syria in support of Assad’s regime forces.
During the seven-year civil war in the country, several media outlets and monitors have blamed Russian airstrikes for scores of civilian deaths, despite Moscow insisting it only targets “terrorist” rebel groups in Syria.
Last December, Russian warplanes were damaged at Hmeimim following a mortar attack by rebels.
On Jan. 7, just one week after the rebel assault, Russian forces said they had foiled a drone attack at the strategic airbase.
In February, a Russian Sukhoi-25 warplane was shot down in a rebel-held area in Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province where the pilot, who had ejected before the crash, died in a ground fight.