All five people on board a Russian military helicopter that was shot down over Syria on Monday are believed to have died, the Kremlin said.
“As far as we know from the information we’ve had from the Defense Ministry, those in the helicopter died, they died heroically, because they were trying to move the aircraft away to minimize victims on the ground,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
The Defense Ministry had earlier said there were five people on board the Mil Mi-8 helicopter.
Three of the five were helicopter crew members, while the other two were officers.
According to the Kremlin, the helicopter was shot down following completion of a “humanitarian aid” mission in Aleppo.
“On August 1, a Mi-8 transport helicopter has been shot down by ground fire in Idlib province after a delivery of humanitarian aid to the city of Aleppo. Three crew members and two officers from the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria were on board.”
Photos shared widely on social networks by Syrian rebels on Monday purported to depict the smoking craft in the desert and personal belongings of those inside, including Russian drivers’ licenses, passports and insurance cards, as well as Orthodox Christian icons.
The authenticity of the pictures could not be independently confirmed.
The Monday downing brought the toll for Russian soldiers killed in the Syrian conflict to 18.
In the most recent death, contract soldier Nikita Shevchenko was killed in a mine blast in Aleppo province while accompanying an aid convoy, the ministry said on July 22.