39 dead as Russian military cargo plane crashes in Syria
A Russian military cargo plane crashed as it was descending to land at an air base in Syria yesterday, killing all 39 people on board, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
The Russian military said an An-26, with 33 passengers and six crew members on board, crashed just 500 metres from the runway. The military blamed the crash on a technical error and insisted that the plane was not shot down.
All of the people on board were Russian servicemen, the ministry said.
Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, leases the Hemeimeem military base in Syria, near the Mediterranean coast.
The base is far from the front lines of the conflict, but came under shelling in December. The Russian military insisted the cargo plane did not come under fire, while saying it would conduct a full investigation.
President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to the families of those killed in the crash after receiving a briefing by Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu, the Kremlin said.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in a statement on the government's website said he was "deeply shaken" by the crash, which had caused "an irreparable loss".