Russian helicopter crashes in Syria, 2 pilots die

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The one-minute video posted on the Defence Ministry's website shows dozens of puppies and older dogs alongside unidentified soldiers.

The Russian armed forces' official New Year's greeting is a marked departure from their steely statements on everything from Syria to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Despite a Russian ban on the use of mercenaries, Moscow has turned to private military contractors as part of its assertive foreign policy.

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The attack came days after Vladimir Putin made a triumphant visit to Khmeimim, where he met his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad and told the Russian air force detachment at the base: "You are coming back home with victory". But this year, they showed off their adorable puppies. The center won an worldwide competition last summer against the canine forces of Belarus, Egypt, Iran and Uzbekistan.

Like other militaries around the world, dogs in Russian Federation are used as guards and for detecting explosives. Russian sappers have been de-mining areas re-taken by the Syrian army and training its troops. New Year's Day is one of Russia's most important holidays, with families celebrating it much like Christmas in the USA and Europe.

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