One of 2 Russian pilots shot down by Turkey rescued, back to airbase in Syria
The second Russian pilot, who ejected from the Su-24 bomber shot down by Turkey on Tuesday over Syria, is safe and sound and has been taken to the Russian airbase in Latakia, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said.
“The [rescue] operation is successfully over. The pilot has been delivered to our base. Safe and sound,” Shoigu said during a meeting of the Defense Committee, adding that the operation was performed by Russian and Syrian special forces.
Shoigu said the joint operation had taken about 12 hours and thanked all special forces’ personnel that took part in the operation to rescue the pilot.
The information that one of the two pilots from the downed plane is alive was released earlier on Wednesday by the Russian ambassador in France, Aleksandr Orlov. He said the pilot had been wounded.
"One on board was wounded when he parachuted down and killed in a savage way on the ground by jihadists in the area. The other managed to escape. According to the latest information he has been picked up by the Syrian Army and should be going back to the Russian Air Force base," Ambassador Aleksandr Orlov told Europe 1 radio.
The pilot was taken to the medical facility at the Russian airbase in Latakia overnight, RT Roman Kosarev, who met the rescued pilot, said.
“We saw each other in the morning. He was feeling completely fine. And the doctors said his health is out of danger.”
On Tuesday, a Russian Su-24 tactical bomber performing a combat sortie over Syria near the Turkish border was brought down by a Turkish Air Force fighter jet.
Ankara and Moscow have given conflicting reports regarding the incident. Russia said the warplane had not violated Turkish airspace, while Turkey maintained the bomber was downed after it violated Turkish airspace for 17 seconds.
Also on Tuesday, videos emerged allegedly showing one of the Russian pilots unconscious and surrounded by armed rebels. He was probably dead. His face is bruised and bloodied. The men seem to be happy and are praising Allah, with some regretting they hadn’t burned him on the spot.
The footage was sent by a rebel group operating in the northwestern area of Syria, where groups including the Free Syrian Army are active but Islamic State has no known presence, according to Reuters.
However, Jahed Ahmad, a representative of the 10th Brigade in the Coast, the rebel group that claimed it attacked the pilots, told AP that one of the Russian pilots was dead upon landing.
Earlier on Wednesday, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev accused Turkey of defending Islamic State militants.
“This is no surprise, considering the information we have about the direct financial interest of some Turkish officials relating to the supply of oil products refined by plants controlled by ISIS,” he said.
Medvedev added: “The reckless and criminal actions of the Turkish authorities have caused a dangerous escalation of relations between Russia and NATO, which cannot be justified by any interest, including protection of state borders.”
Moscow has suspended military cooperation with Ankara after the jet incident. Further measures to beef up Russian airbase security in Syria will also be taken.
"We warn that every target posing a potential threat will be destroyed,” Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy said.