President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in a surprise visit to that air base on Dec. 11, declared that combat operations were winding down and that the Russian military would stage a “significant withdrawal.” It was at least the second time he had made such an announcement since March 2016.
Mr. Putin faces a presidential election this March, and although he is expected to win easily, polls indicate that Russians are increasingly disgruntled about the country’s military presence in Syria.
In its latest announcement, the Ministry of Defense said the drone attack had occurred overnight last Friday. It said 10 assault drones had flown toward the Hmeimim air base in northwestern Syria, while another three were directed against the Russian naval station at Tartus on the Mediterranean Sea.
Seven of the drones were shot down by Pantsir-S antiaircraft missiles, and the other six either crashed or landed outside the base, the statement said.
The Russian military said the drone attack was the first such coordinated assault it had experienced against its bases in Syria, with the drones flying from about 30 miles away and guided by a GPS unit.
The military said it was investigating how the militants obtained the drones.
Accounts by opposition members and others in Syria said one of the Islamist factions operating near the northwestern city of Latakia had launched the drone attack.