Russian military transport plane crashes in Syria, killing all 39 on board

An Antonov An-26 Russian transport plane, like the one in this file photo, crashed Tuesday in Syria.

(CNN)Thirty-nine people, including military personnel, were killed when a Russian transport plane crashed Tuesday while trying to land at Hmeimin air base in northwest Syria, Russian state media reported.

All 33 passengers and six crew members were killed in the crash, state-run RIA-Novosti reported, citing the Defense Ministry. Earlier, it had been reported that 32 people had died.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was briefed on the incident by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during a working visit to Russia's Sverdlovsk region, the Kremlin said in a statement.
The crash occurred as the Antonov-26 transport plane came down 500 meters (about 550 yards) short of the runway, the Defense Ministry said in a statement quoted by the state-run news agency, Tass.
The ministry said it was investigating the crash, adding that "preliminary data suggests it could be a technical malfunction." It also ruled out the possibility that the plane had been fired upon.
Russia's Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case over the crash, committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko told Tass.

Putin visited air base last year

The Russian government has not always been forthcoming about casualties in Syria.
Although the identity of a pilot shot down in northwest Syria last month was announced by the government, officials have been reticent to discuss the death and injury in early February of dozens of Russian military contractors in US airstrikes in Syria.
A February 3 picture shows smoke billowing from the site of a downed Russian jet in Idlib, northwest Syria.