39 killed as Russian military plane crashes in Syria

A military cargo plane has crashed as it was descending to land at a Russian air base in Syria, killing all 32 people onboard, Russia's Defence Ministry has said.

The Russian military said an An-26, with 33 passengers and six crew members onboard, crashed 1,600ft from the runway.

The military blamed the crash on a technical error.

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, leases 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 from defence minister Sergei Shoigu, the Kremlin said in a statement.

The Interfax news agency quoted a spokeswoman for Russia's Investigative Committee, which handles high-profile cases, as saying Russian investigators have been dispatched to Syria to look into the crash.

It was the second Russian military plane to crash in Syria this year, after a Su-25 ground attack jet was struck by a portable air defence missile over Idlib province last month.

The Antonov An-26 is a twin-engined transport plane designed in the late 1960s in the Soviet Union. Large numbers have remained in service in Russia and other countries around the world.

An An-26 belonging to a military flight school crash-landed and caught fire south east of Moscow in May last year, killing one crew member.

PA

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