A military transport plane from Russia crashed in Syria Tuesday, killing all 39 people on board.
The plane crashed while trying to land at the Hmeimin air base in the northwestern part of Syria. It was carrying 33 passengers and six crew members. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the fatal incident occurred when the twin-engine Antonov-26 transport aircraft came down about 550 yards short of the air base’s runway.
“All of them were members of the Russian Armed Forces,” said the Russian Defense Ministry. “The crew and passengers were killed.”
Preliminary data from the crash site suggests that the cause of the crash was a technical problem, but the ministry said that it is still investigating the incident. The possibility that the plane has been fired upon has been ruled out. According to Kremlin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has briefed Russian President Vladimir Putin about the crash during a working visit to Russia’s Sverdlovsk region.
Putin has ordered in December to withdraw a significant part of Russia’s military presence in war-torn Syria, saying that the Russian military’s work in the country is largely done. However, the military continues to suffer casualties.
Last month a Russian Su-25 ground attack plane was shot down by a portable anti-aircraft missile while flying over Syria’s northern Idlib province. The pilot was reportedly able to eject from the plane but eventually died fighting in the rebel-controlled area where he landed.
Dozens of Russian military contractors were also reportedly killed when the United States-led coalition mounted what it called defensive air strikes and artillery fire against Syrian government forces advancing on the rebel headquarters.
The Hmeimin air base, which is located 150 miles north of the Syrian capital Damascus, is Russia’s largest air base in Syria. In December, Putin visited the base, where he met his ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in person.