Russian attack helicopter crashes in Syria

The ministry said the Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopter, which crashed in Homs province in the early hours of Tuesday morning, had not been shot down, but the cause of the incident was unclear.

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“A group of specialists is working at the crash site to investigate the incident,” the ministry said in a statement.

The pilots’ bodies had been recovered and brought back to Russia’s air base in Hmeymim in Latakia province, it said.

President Vladimir Putin announced on March 14 that Russia was withdrawing the bulk of its military contingent in Syria.

Around half its fixed-wing strike aircraft flew out in the days that followed.

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But Russia continued to ship significant quantities of military supplies to Syria and analysts said the Kremlin had changed rather than diluted its military capabilities, increasingly relying on helicopters to support the Syrian army.

Mi-28N helicopters, broadly equivalent to America’s Apache gunship, took part in the Syrian government operation to push Islamic State out of the ancient city of Palmyra last month, firing anti-tank rockets at armoured vehicles.

The crash is the third aircraft Russia has acknowledged losing in Syria. Turkey shot down a Russian Sukhoi-24 bomber near the Syrian-Turkish border on November 24 and a helicopter sent to rescue the pilots was then destroyed by rebels after landing.

France says Syrian offensives threaten ceasefire

France’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday a Syrian government offensive in the Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta regions threatened a truce agreement and could lead to the collapse of intra-Syrian peace talks.

“France expresses its concern regarding the restart of the violence seen in the last few days,” spokesman Romain Nadal told reporters in a daily briefing.

“It warns that the impact of the regime and its allies’ offensives around Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta are a threat to the cessation of hostilities,” he said.

He added that the government and its backers would be “responsible for a new humanitarian crisis and the failure of intra-Syrian negotiations” that are due to restart on Wednesday.

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