MIDDLE EAST

Russian cargo plane crashes in Syria, killing all 32 on board

RUSSIAN CARGO PLANE CRASHES IN SYRIA, KILLING ALL 32 ON BOARD

A Russian transport plane crashed on landing at Russia's Hmeimim airbase in Syria, killing all 32 on board, the defence ministry said in a statement.

A Russian military transport plane crashed in Syria on Tuesday, killing all 32 people on board, Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying, an incident that sharply raises the death toll from the Kremlin's Syria operation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is running for re-election later this month, ordered "a significant part" of Moscow's military contingent there to start withdrawing in December, declaring their work largely done.

The defence ministry was cited as saying that the plane, an An-26, crashed at Russia's Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province and that initial information suggested the crash may have been caused by a technical fault.

Twenty-six passengers and six crew members were on board, and all were killed in the crash, the news agencies quoted the ministry as saying.

In December 2016, a plane carrying a Russian military orchestra to Syria crashed in the Black Sea, killing all 92 people on board.

There have also been deaths and injuries among Russian forces in Syria. In one incident, in February this year, Syrian rebels shot down a Russian warplane and killed its pilot on the ground after he ejected.

About 300 men working for a Kremlin-linked Russian private military firm were either killed or injured in Syria last month when their column was attacked by U.S.-led coalition forces, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Russian officials said a handful of Russian citizens may have been killed in that incident, but said they were not members of Russia's armed forces.

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