Two Russian pilots died near the Syrian city of Palmyra when their helicopter was shot down by Islamic State fighters, bringing the total number of Russian troops killed in the Syrian conflict to 12, Moscow said.
The jihadist group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to SITE monitoring group.
The defense ministry said a Syrian helicopter flown by Riafagat Khabibulin and Yevgeni Dolgin “came under fire” from IS on Saturday and crashed.
According to the statement, the two Russians were making a test flight in the Homs region with a Syrian Mi-25 helicopter that was carrying ammunition. It said IS fighters broke through Syrian forces’ lines east of Palmyra at the same time.
The statement said the Syrians requested the crew help strike the IS fighters and the helicopter was shot down after the crew exhausted its ammunition and it was leaving the scene.
The pilots “had used up all their ammunition and were on their way back when they came under the fire of terrorists and crashed,” the defense ministry said, adding: “The crew died.”
SITE quoted an IS statement as saying: “Soldiers of the Caliphate downed a Russian assault helicopter when it attempted to attack their positions. This resulted in its destruction and killed those who were on board.”
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