Two pilots were killed when a Russian helicopter crashed in Syria, news agencies reported citing Russia's defence ministry. Meanwhile, over 800 opposition rebels and their families were bussed out of Homs following Moscow-backed evacuation deal.

A Russian made Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter in flight during a celebration marking the Russian air force's 100th anniversary in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, August 12, 2012. (File photo)
A Russian made Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter in flight during a celebration marking the Russian air force's 100th anniversary in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, August 12, 2012. (File photo) ( AP )

A Russian helicopter crashed in Syria late on Monday killing both pilots, Moscow's defence ministry said in a statement carried by news agencies.

The incident is the Russian army's second deadly crash in Syria in less than a week. On May 3, a Russian fighter jet crashed after taking off from an airbase, killing both pilots.

"A Russian Ka-52 helicopter crashed while on a routine flight over the eastern regions of the Syrian Arab Republic. Both pilots were killed," the statement said, quoted by the TASS news agency.

It added that the incident "may have been due to a technical malfunction" and that a rescue team recovered the bodies.

Monday's accident brings Russia's official military losses in Syria to 88.

Russian nationals are also regularly reported to be serving as paid mercenaries in Syria, and sometimes killed.

The most recent large military loss acknowledged by Russia came when a transport plane crashed on landing at the Hmeymim Air Base in March, killing all 39 people on board.


Evacuation from countryside of Hama, Homs 

Meanwhile, the evacuation of opposition rebels and their families from the northern countryside of Homs Governorate and the southern part of Hama Governorate in Syria started on Monday following the conclusion of a Russian-backed evacuation deal earlier this month.

The Moscow-brokered deal came about on May 2 when opposition fighters agreed to disarm and return the towns of Houla, Rastan, and Talbiseh and the villages around them to regime control. It reportedly called for a ceasefire and the reopening of the region's main thoroughfares.

On Monday, more than 800 rebel fighters and their families were bussed out Rastan in Homs and transported to rebel-held areas in the northern city of Jarablus and the neighbouring Idlib.

The whole evacuation process in Homs and Hama will last for about one week. When it is done, authorities will reopen the road between the two provinces after six years of closure.

"The road linking Homs, Hama and Aleppo will be reopened. Relevant international parties and organisations will also enter the region to restart their work and satisfy the basic needs of the local population and the residents of northern villages," said Samir Ibrahim, an officer from the regime's forces.

Buses carrying opposition rebels who were evacuated with their families from Al Rastan are seen in Homs countryside, Syria, May 7, 2018.
Buses carrying opposition rebels who were evacuated with their families from Al Rastan are seen in Homs countryside, Syria, May 7, 2018. ( Reuters )

The deal was the latest in a string of evacuation deals that have recently been concluded between the rebels and the regime.

Under the deal, the opposition fighters must hand over their medium and heavy weapons within two days after the signing of the agreement as a prelude to the evacuation deal.

It is similar to other agreements that have been reached in the capital Damascus, which saw the evacuation of rebels from the eastern Ghouta countryside and the eastern part of the Qalamoun region to Idlib and Jarablus last month.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies