Russian Defense Ministry claims all militants linked to Dec. 31 mortar attack on Khmeimim air base in Syria were killed
By Emre Gurkan Abay
Russia on Friday claimed its forces destroyed “groups of insurgents” who had carried out a Dec. 31 mortar attack on its Syrian airbase.
The Defense Ministry said in a statement that Russian special forces in Syria found the militants that attacked the Khmeimim air base and “naturalized” them all.
Saying that the militants were hit in a region close to the western border of Idlib province, the ministry claimed that a place where aircraft-type strike drones were stored was also destroyed in the operation.
On Monday, Russia averted an attack by 13 drones on its Syrian installations — 10 attacking its Khmeimim air base and three of them on the Tartus naval base — according to the ministry.
President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the attacks were provocations aimed at undermining Russia’s relations with its partners, including Turkey, according to Russia’s Sputnik news agency.
Putin also said that he spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the phone about the incident.
“There were some provocateurs, but they were not Turks,” Putin was quoted as saying by Russia’s official news agency TASS.
“We know who they are, who paid who for this provocation, and what the actual sum was.”
The ministry confirmed last week that two Russian military personnel were killed during the attack on Khmeimim.
Russian daily Kommersant reported earlier that seven planes had been destroyed and more than 10 military personnel killed in the mortar attack.
Last week, the ministry also said that two pilots died when a Russian Mi-24 helicopter crashed due to a technical fault 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from Khmeimim.
The ministry denied an attack preceded the crash. A local Syrian source said the crash took place on Dec. 31.
On Dec. 11, Putin ordered the start of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, adding that the Tartus and Khmeimim bases would continue to be used.