Saturday 24 August 2019

Second pilot from downed Russian warplane 'safe and sound'

A Russian warplane on fire before crashing in Turkey after being shot down (Haberturk TV via AP)
A Russian warplane on fire before crashing in Turkey after being shot down (Haberturk TV via AP)
A Russian Su-24 bomber rolls before a combat mission at Hemeimeem airbase in Syria last month (AP)

A pilot from a Russian warplane that was shot down by Turkish jets near the Syrian border has been rescued, President Vladimir Putin has said.

Mr Putin was speaking in televised comments after defence minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian news agencies that the man was rescued in a 12-hour operation and is "safe and sound" at Russia's air base in the government-controlled area of Syria.

Moscow's ambassador to France Alexander Orlov said earlier that one of the two pilots was wounded, then killed on the ground by "jihadists" after landing with his parachute.

Mr Orlov told Europe-1 radio the other pilot "managed to escape and be rescued by the Syrian army".

The Russian ambassador denied Turkish government statements that the Russian plane was warned repeatedly about an air space violation before it was brought down.

He accused Nato member Turkey of being an "accomplice" of Islamic State extremists and playing an ambiguous role in Syria's civil war.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country does not wish to escalate tensions with Russia over the incident.

Speaking at an Organisation of Islamic Co-operation economy meeting in Istanbul, Mr Erdogan said Turkey favours "peace, dialogue and diplomacy".

But he defended his country's move to shoot down the plane, saying "no one should expect Turkey to stay silent to border violations or the violation of its rights".

The surviving pilot is at an air base in Latakia province after being rescued by a Syrian army commando unit, officials said.

A statement from the Syrian armed forces said a special unit carried out overnight a "qualitative" operation with Russian forces and rescued one of the two pilots.

In a statement carried by Syria's official news agency SANA, the army said the Syrian and Russian forces penetrated into the areas where "terrorists" are entrenched at a depth of 4.5 kilometers and rescued the pilot. It said he is in "good health".

PA Media

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