A Russian Su-25 warplane was shot down above Idlib province by Syrian rebels, the first Russian fighter jet downed above Syria since 2015, and its pilot was reportedly killed. A Russian defense ministry official confirmed the plane was shot down: “The plane was flying around the de-escalation zone of Idlib,” the Russian military stated.
The plane is said to have been downed in a rebel-held area of north-western Syria near Maasaran in Idlib.
Video posted on social media appeared to show the plane being hit, while other video showed burning wreckage with a red star on a wing.
Locals tweeted more video of the flaming wreckage on the ground.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said that the the pilot ejected himself from the downing aircraft and survived the crash, but was killed during a fight with terrorists.
Photos and a video posted on Twitter reportedly show his dead body: “The pilot reported on a bailout in an area controlled by rebels Jabhat al-Nusra. When conducting a fight with terrorists, the pilot died,” the Defense Ministry said.
According to the ministry, Russia and Turkey, peace guarantor in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone, are taking all possible efforts to bring the body of the killed pilot back.
The Russian Ministry of Defense also said that the aircraft might have been shot down with the help of a man-portable air defense system.
Russian aircraft supporting Assad’s army have been targeting Syrian rebels in the area of Idlib province.
Russia has acted alongside its Syrian allies targeting rebels in the area. Syrian government troops launched a major offensive around Idlib in late December, backed by Russian jets. The UN says some 100,000 civilians have been displaced.
The Syrian Observatory told Agence France-Presse there had been dozens of Russian air strikes in the area over the past 24 hours.
Hardline rebel groups including the jihadist, al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are active in the north-western province. Russian air force losses have been rare since it began its Syria campaign in September 2015. About 45 Russian military personnel have been confirmed dead in Syria, along with an unknown number of contractors.