There were no civilians onboard the An-26 transport plane that crashed in Syria at 3 p.m. local time Tuesday, hitting the ground 500 meters short of the runway, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. A total of 27 officers, including one major general, as well as warrant officers and contract servicemen, died in the accident.
The ministry reports that preliminary information suggests a technical malfunction could have caused the crash and that there is no indication the aircraft was shot down. The ministry added that Russia's Investigative Committee has launched a criminal investigation into any violations of flight or preflight regulations after the crash.
The Chief Military Prosecutor's Office has begun a probe into the crash, the regulatory agency's press service said, adding that, if deemed necessary, harsh response measures will be applied.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee Yury Shvytkin said that his committee is not looking into the incident and that lawmakers in this case shouldn't replace the Ministry of Defense.
"It would be unseemly for the committee to address the issue," Shvytkin told RIA Novosti, urging people to refrain from jumping to conclusions until the tragedy is properly investigated.
Sergey Zheleznyak, a member of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs and deputy secretary of the General Council of the United Russia party, also offered condolences, echoing Shvytkin's remarks by saying that the crash "requires a thorough investigation to determine what led to the crash and to make sure a similar incident will not happen in the future."
A Reliable Plane
It is a military transport aircraft capable of carrying up to 38 people, excluding the crew, and some 5,500 kilograms of cargo. Military experts told RIA Novosti Tuesday that although the plane was taken out of production more than 30 years ago, the An-26 is a reliable aircraft and its operational life has been successfully extended.
According to Col. Gen. Nikolai Antoshkin, former deputy commander of the Russian Air Force, the An-26 has so far successfully coped with its tasks.
"The An-26 is a reliable machine… Its operational life can be extended after three decades for five or 10 more years, depending on the situation," Antoshkin said.
Magomed Tolboyev, one of Russia's most famous test pilots, also said the An-26 is a "great aircraft" that "had never failed," adding that it is hard to tell right now what led to the crash.
This was the second Russian military plane to crash in Syria this year, after an Su-25 "Frogfoot" ground attack jet was struck by a man-portable air defense system (MANPAD) operated by terrorists over the northern Idlib province February 3.
Filipov was posthumously conferred the title of Hero of the Russian Federation.
Russia has maintained a military presence in Syria since 2015, launching an anti-terrorist operation at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow has two military facilities in the country: the Hmeymim Air Base and the Tartus Naval Facility.
* Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra) is a terrorist group banned in Russia.