On the last day of 2017, militants in Syria launched a mortar attack on the Russian airbase in Khmeimim. Moscow lost four Su-24 bombers, two Su-35S fighters, and an An-72 transport aircraft, as reported by the newspaper Kommersant, citing two military-diplomatic sources. The newspaper added that more than ten servicemen may have been wounded.
The newspaper called it “one of the most serious incidents” during the entire time of the Russian operation in Syria. Kommersant’s sources did not specify to which organization the militants who attacked the base belong.
The newspaper also said that the Ministry of Defense did not comment on what happened, but only reported the crash of an Mi-24 helicopter.
The department said that on December 31, the Mi-24 helicopter crashed during a flight from Khmeimim to another area of Syria. Two pilots were killed, and the on-board mechanic was injured and later evacuated. The Ministry of Defense stressed that the helicopter was not fired upon, and the reason for the crash was a technical malfunction.
After the story was published in the newspaper, a group of investigators of the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) wrote in their Telegram channel that no group in the past few days had taken responsibility for the attack. In addition, the CIT noted that none of the local residents had published a video or photo of the results of the shelling of the Russian base, although “photos of the consequences of the incidents near the Khmeimim Air Base had quickly found their way on to social networks.”
Prior to this, on December 27, the Russian news agency Interfax and the Arabian AMN reported that a Russian airbase in Syria had been hit by a missile attack. It was reported that air defense weapons on the Khmeimim Air Base were able to shoot down two missiles, and a third did not hit the base. Later, Maria Zakharova, the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the incident “provocation of terrorists” and spoke about Moscow’s concern that the militants have “new weapons.”
On December 11, President Vladimir Putin visited Khmeimim, where he ordered the withdrawal of some of the Russian troops. On December 22, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu reported that this order had been carried out.