September 22, 2019

Russian Military Aircraft Is Said to Be Missing Off Syria Coast

Russian Military Aircraft Is Said to Be Missing Off Syria Coast

A Russian military aircraft carrying 14 people disappeared off the Syrian coast on Monday as Israeli fighter jets were attacking targets in the area and as a French ship was launching missiles, the Russian news agency Interfax reported, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.

The Defense Ministry said that the Il-20 surveillance plane disappeared from radar screens Monday night when it was 22 miles from the Mediterranean coast. The aircraft had been returning to a Russian air base near the Syrian port city of Latakia.

The disappearance came the same day that the Russian defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, said that Syria would refrain from launching an offensive on Idlib Province, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.

Russia has been the most important backer for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria during the country’s long-running civil war, now approaching eight years, and it has sent warplanes and troops to support him.

Mr. Shoigu’s announcement came after the President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appeared to delay what had been forecast to be a bloody assault on Idlib by agreeing to establish a “demilitarized zone” there.

At least three million Syrian civilians and 30,000 insurgent fighters, including Qaeda-linked jihadists, have been cornered in Idlib, the last significant piece of territory in Syria that Mr. Assad does not control. Syria’s allies include Russia and Iran.

Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, referred questions on the episode to the Russian Defense Ministry. “The U.S. was not involved in any strikes in Western Syria or in the shoot down of any planes tonight,” he said on Monday evening.

Follow Mike Ives on Twitter: @mikeives.

Sophia Kishkovsky and Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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