In the evening of July 8, “Amaq agency” (a media close to Daesh [ISIS]) reported that a Russian helicopter was shot down during an Daesh attack on Palmyra. They also claimed three Syrian army checkpoints were captured.
Several hours later, the Russian Ministry of Defense’s press service issued a statement denying the loss of the attack helicopter:
All Russian combat helicopters in Syria have returned from combat missions to the airbase, a spokesman for the Russian airbase at Hmeimim said on Friday.
“All Russian combat helicopters deployed in Syria have safely returned to the airdromes upon completion of their missions,” he said. “There are no losses among Russian aircraft.”
On July 9, lenta.ru reported citing own sources at the MoD that a Russian Mi-35 was indeed shot down, killing two Russian servicemen: pilot Ryafagat Habibullin and operator pilot Dolgin. Ryafagat Habibullin was a colonel and commanded the 55th separate army aviation regiment based at Korenovsk airbase in Krasnodar region. Due to his high rank and post, the colonel was repeatedly featured in media reports and blog posts. We found a post in social media mourning for the colonel. It was posted by a Russian serviceman based near Krasnodar:
After the pilots’ names were reported, the MoD issued another statement, confirming the deaths of two Russian soldiers but denying it was a Russian helicopter:
The Russian Defense Ministry said Saturday that Daesh terrorists shot down a helicopter near Syria’s Palmyra, killing two Russian military instructor pilots.
On July 8, Russian military instructor pilots conducted a test flight of a Syrian Mi-25 helicopter (export version of the Mi-24 helicopter), when it received a request from the Syrian authorities to carry out airstrikes against a large group of Daesh terrorists advancing to the east of Palmyra, the ministry said.
In the evening of July 9, Daesh posted a video of the Russian-crewed helicopter falling:
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