Russia has denied media reports that seven of its military planes had been destroyed in a militant assault on a base in northwestern Syria.

In a statement on Thursday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said only two servicemen were killed in shelling by foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants operating in the Arab country.

The ministry said the report in Russia’s Kommersant business daily that seven military planes had been “practically destroyed” in the attack on the Hmeimim base in coastal province of Latakia was “fake”.

“As darkness fell, the Hmeimim air base was subjected to sudden mortar shelling from a mobile group of militants. As a result of the shelling, two servicemen were killed,” the statement said.

According to the ministry, security around the base was being stepped up after the mortar attack which came after a Russian helicopter crashed in Syria due to a technical fault, killing two pilots.

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Russia has been offering military assistance to Syria since September 2015 upon a request from the government in Damascus, which has been fighting a foreign-backed militancy for years.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Syria last month where he ordered the start of a pullout of Russian troops and held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A group of Russian forces return home from Syria as part of Russia’s partial withdrawal of its forces from the country.

A group of Russian troops deployed to Syria has recently returned home as part of Russia’s partial withdrawal from the war-torn country.

The crews of Tupolev Tu-22M3 long-range bombers also returned to an operational airfield in North Ossetia and later flew to their permanent bases.

Putin’s decision came a few days after he declared a “complete victory” over Daesh on both banks of the Euphrates River in Syria as he stressed the significance of switching to a political process to ultimately end the crisis in the Arab country.

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