A Russian transport helicopter was shot down in opposition rebel territory in northern Syria on Monday and all five on board were killed—the deadliest single incident for the Russian military since its involvement in Syria's civil war, reports the AP. The Mi-8 helicopter was shot down in Idlib province while returning to the Russian air base on Syria's coast after delivering humanitarian goods to Aleppo, says Russia's Defense Ministry. The helicopter had three crew and two officers deployed with the Russian center at the Hemeimeem air base on the Syrian coast. A representative for Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, said the Russians "died heroically because they tried to move the aircraft away so to minimize losses on the ground."
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Videos uploaded online by Syrian opposition activists show the burning wreckage of a Russian helicopter in footage seemingly taken moments after the crash. In one, a rocket pod can be seen next to the wreckage. In other videos, the body of one purported Russian soldier is seen being dragged by the legs while an unidentified person stands on the body of another soldier. Earlier Monday, a Syrian military official said that government forces repelled an attack by insurgents that was an attempt to break the siege imposed on rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo. The UN estimates some 300,000 people are still trapped in the rebel section of Aleppo, with dwindling food and medical supplies.