A Russian military helicopter was shot down Monday in northwestern Syria, killing all five people on board.
Russia’s defense ministry said the transport helicopter was hit as it returned from delivering humanitarian aid to the city of Aleppo, and that the dead included two officers and three crew members.
«As far as we know from the information we’ve had from the defense ministry, those in the helicopter died,» Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists. «They died heroically, because they were trying to move the aircraft away to minimize victims on the ground.»
Russian forces have been conducting airstrikes in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government since September of last year.
The conflict between Assad’s forces and rebels who want him out of power has been going on since March 2011 when peaceful protests spiraled into a civil war that includes multiple rebel groups as well as Islamic State militants battling for territory.
The Syrian government said Sunday it is ready to resume U.N.-sponsored peace talks with the opposition in Geneva at the end of August without preconditions or «external influence.»
Several previous rounds of U.N. talks have broken apart as the violence persisted and the major question of whether Assad would step down remained unresolved.
The United States and other Western powers have insisted Assad must leave as part of any peace deal, while his allies, chiefly Russia, have rejected that position.