- The Russian Ministry of Defence said that a mortar attack on its airbase in Syria had killed two “military personnel,” but said no jets were destroyed.
- The admission comes after a report that seven Russian aircraft were destroyed by a rebel mortar attack.
- If the attack did result in the loss of jets, it would be the greatest loss for the Russian Air Force since its campaign started in 2015.
The Russian Ministry of Defence confirmed that two “military personnel” died in a mortar attack on its Khmeimim airbase in Syria’s Latakia Province on December 31.
The admission comes amid reports from Russian newspaper Kommersant that the attack destroyed at least seven Russian aircraft as well – four Su-24 bombers, two Su-35S fighters, and an An-72 transport plane. Kommersant also reported that an ammunition depot was destroyed as well.
But the Russian MoD pushed back on those reports, according to the Russian government-funded news outlet RT.
“Kommersant’s report on the alleged ‘destruction’ of seven Russian military aircraft at Khmeimim Airbase is fake,” the MoD said in a statement, according to RT.
It would not be the first time Russian aircraft were destroyed in an artillery attack at an airbase in Syria.
STRATFOR published satellite imagery last May that revealed an ISIS attack at the T4 air base in central Syria had resulted in the destruction of four Russian Mi-24 attack helicopters and a supply depot. The attack also damaged a Syrian MiG-25 “that was likely already out of commission,” according to STRATFOR.
Widescale destruction of Russian jets from ground attacks has not been reported before, and would be a significantly larger loss.