Russian military jet crashes on takeoff in Syria, crew killed
A Russian military jet crashed while taking off from Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria yesterday in an incident that killed its two-man crew, Russia’s Defence Ministry said, Russian news agencies reported.
The Sukhoi-24 attack aircraft, codenamed Fencer by the NATO military alliance, was heading out on a combat mission, but its crew failed to eject after the plane veered off the runway, the ministry was cited as saying.
A technical fault may have been to blame, the ministry said.
Russia has used the Hmeymim base in Latakia Province to launch air strikes against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad since it first intervened in the Syrian conflict in September 2015.
Russia lost two other planes - a Sukhoi-33 and a MiG-29 - off the coast of Syria last year in accidents involving its sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.
Separately, Russia accused the United States yesterday of pretending to fight Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and of deliberately reducing its air strikes in Iraq to allow the group’s militants to stream into Syria to slow the Russian-backed advance of the Syrian army.
In the latest sign of rising tensions between Moscow and Washington, the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement that the U.S.-led coalition had sharply reduced its air strikes in Iraq in September when Syrian forces, backed by Russian air power, had started to retake Deir al-Zor Province.
“Everyone sees that the U.S.-led coalition is pretending to fight Islamic State, above all in Iraq, but continuing to allegedly fight Islamic State in Syria actively for some reason,” said Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia’s defence ministry.
The result, he said, had been that militants had moved in large numbers from Iraqi border areas to Deir al-Zor where they were trying to dig in on the left bank of the River Euphrates.
“The actions of the Pentagon and the coalition demand an explanation. Is their change of tack a desire to complicate as much as they can the Syrian army’s operation, backed by the Russian air force, to take back Syrian territory to the east of the Euphrates?,” asked Konashenkov.
“Or is it an artful move to drive Islamic State terrorists out of Iraq by forcing them into Syria and into the path of the Russian air force’s pinpoint bombing?”
He said Syrian troops were in the midst of trying to push ISIL out of the city of al-Mayadin, southeast of Deir al-Zor, but that ISIL tried daily to reinforce its ranks there with “foreign mercenaries” pouring in from Iraq.