On January 3, the Russian daily Kommersant reported that militants shelled Russia’s Khmeimim air base in Syria on December 31. Kommersant said that four Su-24 attack aircraft, two Su-35S multi-role fighters and one An-72 transport aircraft were damaged or destroyed and 9 service members may received injures in the incident.
Experts immediately said that the provided number of the destroyed aircraft is very questionable because it is hard to believe that a short shelling by medium caliber mortars could cause such a damage. For example, on April 7, 2017 the US Navy launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat Airbase controlled by the Syrian government. According to open data, the 59 cruise missiles destroyed 10 aircraft at the airbase. This example shows while the reports about the 7 aircraft destroyed by a mortar strike caused mistrust.
On January 4, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the reports about 7 destroyed aircraft are false and that “Russia’s air group in Syria is combat ready and continues to accomplish all its missions in full.”
On the same day, photos showing a Russian Su-24 attack aircraft with damaged tail fins at the Khmeimim air base appeared online. The photographed Su-24 was allegedly located at the air base in Syria and had the aircraft number “29”. MORE PHOTOS
On January 5, the Russian state-run media released a video from Khmeimim showing a Su-24 attack aircraft with the same aircraft number.
Summing up info from open sources and SouthFront’s sources from the Syrian Arab Army, it’s possible to make the following conclusion:
- The December 31 shelling of the Khmeimim air base is a fact.
- It’s likely that the shelling took place because of negligence of some units of Syrian and Russian security forces.
- Approximately 3 aircraft suffered some damage from mortar fragments as a result of the shelling. No aircraft was destroyed.
- Some major Russian media twisted the facts in their reports in order to discredit the Russian military grouping involved in the operation in Syria.
- Misrepresentation and twisting of facts have become a common approach for some major Russian media outlets recently. This is linked to the ongoing presidential campaign in Russia. The presidential election will take in March, 2018. Such reports are an attempt to discredit the foreign and internal policies of the current Russian leadership.