Russia seeks Turkey’s help for downed plane in Syria’s Idlib
Russia has officially requested Turkey’s help to recover the debris, and especially the engine, of its Sukhoi-25 ground-attack aircraft, which was downed in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province on Feb. 3, the Russian Defense Ministry has said.
The Russians said they first and foremost wanted to determine “what type of missile was used in the attack,” for which they needed to analyze the engine.
Shortly after the ministry’s statement, which was released on Feb. 6, the Russian agency Interfax said Turkey on Feb. 6 had helped repatriate the body of a Russian pilot killed in Syria, citing the defense ministry.
The body of Major Roman Filipov has reached Russia and would be laid to rest in a military ceremony in southern Russia on Feb. 8, the statement said.
In the incident, one Russian man, the 34-year-old pilot, was killed fighting Jabhat al-Nusra militants on the ground after he ejected from the Russian Sukhoi-25 following an attack on the aircraft, the Russian ministry said.
The fight ended with Filipov’s move, according to the ministry: He blew himself up using a hand grenade.
The fallen pilot was posthumously awarded with the “Hero of Russia” medal, and new wartime aviation rules were installed for Russia in Syria as Russian warplanes on Feb. 5 were ordered to fly higher in Syria, the local media reported.
In future warplanes must fly above 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) to stay safe, Russian daily Izvestia said, citing the ministry.
“It’s extremely worrying that shoulder-launched surface-to air missiles are in the hands of terrorists,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Feb. 5.
“It’s a huge danger for all governments,” he added.
Meanwhile, Russian lawmakers have called for a thorough investigation into the origins of the alleged portable missile launcher. Some have even hinted at Western involvement. People in this camp include State Duma Defense Committee Deputy Head Yury Shvytkin.
The U.S. State Department said it had seen reports about the incident and allegations that the U.S. provided missiles to groups in Syria.
“The U.S. has never provided MANPAD missiles to any group in Syria, and we are deeply concerned that such weapons are being used,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Feb. 3, referring to the portable air-defense systems.
The investigations are ongoing on the Russian side.
Jabhat al-Nusra is an al-Qaeda oriented militant group that recently merged with four other smaller Jihadi groups to form a new alliance, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham – a group that still controls large parts of Syria’s Idlib governorate.