MOSCOW — An advanced Russian helicopter gunship crashed in Syria Tuesday, killing two Russian crewmembers aboard, the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
The Mi-28N “Night Hunter” helicopter was not shot down, the ministry’s press service said, and the bodies of the two crew members were recovered in a rescue operation. The reason for the crash was not immediately given, although Russian state media reports suggested adverse weather conditions may have played a role.
While Putin announced a drawdown of Russia’s military in Syria last month, Russian forces remain intimately involved in combat operations. Elite Speznaz ground forces and Mi-28N helicopters both fought in a recent offensive that retook the city of Palmyra from the Islamic State, the Ministry of Defense reported, with Russian military advisors helping oversee the campaign.
Military analysts said that while Russia has reduced the number of fixed-wing aircraft in Syria by nearly half, it has sent more military helicopters to the country to help support Syrian armed forces during ground fighting. Russia’s Ministry of Defense confirmed that Mi-28N helicopters were in Syria earlier this month, releasing footage showing the helicopter using guided missiles during fighting near Palmyra.
Eight Russian servicemen have died during the country’s six-month intervention in the Syrian conflict, according to official statistics.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday posthumously awarded the title Hero of Russia to Aleksandr Prokhorenko, a special forces lieutenant who, the Ministry of Defense said, called an airstrike on his own position to avoid capture during fighting near the city of Palmyra. The report of how Prokhorenko died could not be independently confirmed.