‘A Russian Mi-8 military transport helicopter was shot down from the ground after delivering humanitarian aid to Aleppo,’ the defence ministry said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.
‘Three crew members and two officers… were on board.’
In a later statement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added: ‘As far as we know from the information we’ve had from the defence ministry, those in the helicopter died, they died heroically, because they were trying to move the aircraft away to minimise victims on the ground.’
Videos uploaded online by Syrian opposition activists show the burning wreckage the helicopter seemingly taken in the first few moments after it crashed.
In one film, a rocket pod can be seen next to the wreckage. People standing nearby are seen taking cellphone photos and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar,’ or God is great in Arabic.
The helicopter appears to have broken up as it crashed. In another video, its tail can be seen lying separately from the aircraft’s body in flames.
Russian air forces are supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s five-year-old civil war.
Around 25 miles north-east of the crash site, rebel groups are staging an offensive to break a government siege on rebel-held parts of eastern Aleppo city.
Pro-government forces on the ground are being supported by heavy air strikes in the area.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the helicopter incident. Idlib province has a strong presence of both fighters for the al-Qaeda branch in Syria known as the Nusra Front and rebels.
The group announced last week that it was changing its name and relinquishing ties with al-Qaeda in an attempt to undermine a potential US and Russian air campaign against its fighters.
The group is part of a coalition of insurgent groups called Jaish al-Fateh, or Army of Conquest, which has captured most of Idlib.
In July, two Russian airmen were killed in the central Homs province when their Mi-25 helicopter was shot down by what the Defense Ministry said were ISIS fighters.
An Mi-28N helicopter gunship crashed near Homs in April, killing both crew members, but the Russian military said there was no evidence it came under fire.