Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces battling to recapture the ancient city of Palmyra had a lot of help from above. At least one Russian Mi-28 attack helicopter—Moscow’s answer to the U.S. Army’s fearsome Apache gunship—flew top cover as Syrian tanks and infantry stormed the modern city adjacent to the UN World Heritage Site.
Video posted online by a pro-regime group clearly shows an Mi-28 firing a rocket from beneath one of its stubby wings. The battle for Palmyra, which ended this week as ISIS militants fled the city, apparently represented the two-seat, gun- and missile-armed Mi-28’s combat debut.
The Russian gunship’s appearance over Palmyra underscores Russia’s continuing support for the regime of Assad, Syria’s president. In a surprise move on March 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had ordered Russian forces to withdraw from Syria, around six months after thousands of Moscow’s troops and scores of its best warplanes deployed to western Syria to help bolster Assad’s own embattled forces.
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