Russia’s defense ministry said Monday that militants had used drones to attack key naval and air bases in Syria, an assault claimed over the weekend by one of the country’s rebel groups.
The Ministry of Defence said in a statement that Russian security had warded off terror attacks at Tartus naval base and Hmeimim air base on January 5-6. The militants used 10 drones at Hmeimim and another three at Tartus, according to the statement.
“Three of them were landed on the controlled area outside the base, and another three UAVs exploded as they touched the ground.” the ministry said. “Seven UAVs were eliminated by the Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile complexes operated by the Russian air defence units on 24-hours alert.”
According to the ministry, analysis of the drones revealed that they were launched from a distance of more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) “using [a] modern GPS guidance system.”
On Saturday, the Free Alawite Movement faction of the Free Syrian Army said it attacked Hmeimim with drones, taking out an S-400 missile defense system. In a statement, the group said Russia would not be able to stay in Syria for another six months, and promised “pain” for President Vladimir Putin ahead of the upcoming Russian election.
#FSA Free Alawite Movement claim responsibility for the #Hmeimim drone attack taking out an S-400 Missile System, stating that #Russia will not be able to stay in #Syria for more than 6 more months, and promising “painful” days for them especially before Putin’s next election pic.twitter.com/9GXtEUIVja
— كودي روش (@badly_xeroxed) January 6, 2018
Contradicting the FSA claim, Moscow said there were no casualties or damage at either base.
Photos published on Twitter on Saturday purport to show a similar done shot down a week earlier near Latakia, about 81 kilometers from Tartus and 26 kilometers from Hmeimim air base.
— ScienceOfDiscontent (@SciOfDiscontent) January 7, 2018
On Friday, the defense ministry said two Russian soldiers were killed in a mortar attack outside Hmeimim, but denied reports that seven planes were destroyed. The admission came one day after the ministry confirmed reports that two Russian pilots were killed when their Mi-24 helicopter crashed en route to Syria’s Hama air field on New Year’s Eve.