Russian concerns have been heightened by jihadist attacks on its military bases in Syria using UAVs - unmanned aerial vehicles.
Without directly blaming any specific country, the Russian military said the necessary data and capability for the attacks could only have been obtained "from one of the countries that possesses know-how in satellite navigation" - a statement that appeared to be directed at the United States.
The area is part of a de-escalation zone agreement in the Kazakh capital Astana a year ago between Turkey, which supports rebel groups, and Assad allies Iran and Russian Federation.
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This is not a simple air offensive.
Alexei Malashenko, Research Director of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, said that Russia , Turkey and Iran all had different interests in the Syria conflict.
While the ministry said the attack caused no damage to the Hemeimeem air base in the province of Latakia and the naval outpost in the Syrian port of Tartus, it marked the first time the militants used drones against Russian assets on such a large scale.
"The drones were launched from the area of Muazzara in the southwestern part of the Idlib de-escalation area controlled by so-called "moderate opposition" units", defence ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda said.
Another claim made in Syrian opposition news outlets is that an Iranian-backed militia fighting on behalf of the regime and located in the government-controlled hills nearby, was responsible. By the end of last week, they had advanced into Idlib, close to an insurgent-held military airport.
Ten descended on the air base, three on the naval base.
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The rebel groups responded to the Russian escalation with attacks on Russian targets in Syria, including Khmeimim air base. Idlib province is nearly entirely controlled by anti-government forces that are dominated by a jihadist outfit known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) consisting mostly of former fighters from the Al-Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate.
Rebel groups seized Idlib, which borders Turkey, in 2015 and it has since become the only Syrianprovince fully under insurgent control.
The fighting and air strikes have forced more than 60,000 people to leave their homes since November 1, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Idlib province has been a source of tension between regime-backer Russian Federation and rebel-supporter Turkey, with Ankara accusing the Syrian regime of stepping up its offensive on key rebel-held areas there. "This merely emphasizes the need for stepping up political settlement efforts".
"Any suggestion the USA, the Coalition or our partnered forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and utterly irresponsible", Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon told Business Insider in an email, adding over the phone that the insinuation is "absolute bonkers".
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