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Two Russian Pilots Killed In Fighter Jet Crash In Syria

A Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighter lands at the Hmeimim airbase. (file photo)

The Russian Defense Ministry says a military plane has crashed in Syria, killing two pilots aboard.

A Sukhoi-30 fighter jet crashed shortly after taking off from Hmeimim air base in Syria's Latakia Province on May 3, the ministry said in a statement, adding that the plane had not been shot down.

Several Russian agencies quoted unnamed ministry officials as saying preliminary investigations show the crash might have been caused by a bird strike.

Russia has more than 50 fighter jets and helicopters in Syria and a contingent of ground forces protecting them, along with a number of consultants and special forces operating with the Syrian military.

Russia and Iran have been supporting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's government in the seven-year civil war.

Moscow helped turn the tide of the conflict in Assad's favor by launching a campaign of air strikes in 2015 and stepping up its military presence on the ground.

Based on reporting by Interfax, RIA Novosti, and TASS