Rescued Russian pilot claims no warning before jet downed
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoOne of the Russian pilots of a fighter jet shot down by Turkey on the Syrian border told state media on Nov. 25 that there was no prior warning.
"There was no warning, not by radio exchange nor visually. There was no contact at all," navigator Konstantin Murakhtin told Russian journalists at Moscow's base in Syria after being rescued by special forces.
Dressed in khaki and speaking with his back to the camera, Murakhtin echoed the Kremlin's version of events, saying that the plane could not have entered Turkish airspace "even for one second".
"I could perfectly see on the map and on the ground where the border was and where we were," Murakhtin said, standing out on the tarmac of the base. "We were flying at an altitude of 6,000 metres, the weather was clear."
Murakhtin gave no details of the rescue operation that Russia's military said involved its special forces working alongside Syrian troops.
"I feel good in general. The military doctors work miracles," he said.
"I am waiting impatiently to be released by the doctors so I can immediately return to service. I will ask the commanders to keep me at the airbase."
He added: "I have to pay back the debt for my commander."
Moscow has castigated Turkey for downing the Su-24 plane, which it insisted was in Syrian airspace, while the Turkish side said the jet had flown a little more than a mile into Turkish airspace for 17 seconds.
The US military meanwhile said that Turkish pilots warned the Russian jet 10 times but failed to get a response.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Murakhtin and those involved in the rescue operation will be decorated.
The plane's other pilot, who died as he was fired at from the ground, will posthumously be given Russia's highest award for valour, the Hero of Russia medal, Putin said.
Another Russian soldier was killed on Nov. 24 when his Mi-8 helicopter was "damaged by gunfire and had to land" during an operation to retrieve Su-24's two pilots, the defence ministry said.