Russian Federation admits airbase came under attack from 13 armed drones

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It was reportedly the single largest loss of Russian military equipment since Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces into Syria in September 2015.

The attack also came less than a week after two Russian servicemen were killed during a mortar assault on the base.

There have been reports in Arab media that the mortar attack might have come from within government controlled areas, hinting at local Alawite fighters or Iranian-backed gunmen seeking to send a message to Russian Federation.

She said the incidents were proof that "whoever conducted these attacks can still penetrate regime areas and impose costs on the Russians".

Asked whether the announcement of a partial withdrawal could have been premature, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on January 9 that the Russian forces in Syria have "all the necessary means" to counter any challenge.

"What happened in Syria is of enormous domestic political importance to President Putin".

The drone attack on the Russian assets in Syria also raised tensions between Russia and Turkey.

Russian Federation said it held Turkey accountable for the drone attack, calling it a breach of their cease-fire agreement in northern Syria, while Turkey accused Russian Federation and Iran of jeopardizing the entire peace process by launching an offensive to take control of an opposition-held air base in the area. A number of Alawite opposition members said they did not think the group is real and speculated that foreign intelligence agencies are seeking to create the impression of strife among regime loyalists.

Almost three million people are believed to be in the Idlib region, their numbers swelled by fighters and civilians who fled Syrian army advances elsewhere in the country.

The Russian defence ministry's newspaper said on Wednesday the drones had been launched from the south-western part of theIdlib de-escalation zone held by "moderate opposition" armed groups.

Late last month, rebels in Idlib fired rockets at Hemeimeem, which were shot down by air defense systems protecting the base.

Some experts say the current escalation with the rebel groups shows a prolonged Russian involvement in Syria in favor of the regime, even with IS being in retreat.

Russian Federation said it was also controlled by Turkish armed forces.

The Defense Ministry posted photographs of one of the drones on its Facebook page, showing what looked like a homemade model aircraft that did not seem particularly sophisticated.

"The remaining contingent and military infrastructure at Hmeymim and Tartus have the necessary capabilities to counter sporadic terrorist hit-and-run raids, which will regrettably continue".

It was the first time when terrorists applied a massed drone aircraft attack launched at a range of more than 50 km using modern GPS guidance system. "Given its actions in Syria, Russia can not be regarded as either a neutral mediator or a fair convener of a national dialogue process".