Russian forces launched at least a dozen airstrikes against insurgent-held areas near the Turkey-Syria border where the Sukhoi SU-24 fighter jet was shot down by the Turkish army yesterday
Heavy Russian bombardment hit areas controlled by Turkmen rebels, the group claiming to have shot and killed one of the pilots of the Russian jet as he parachuted out of the flaming wreckage, and attempted to kill his co-pilot.
The rebel group released a video showing them cheering and chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ as they discovered the body of Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov, who will now receive Russia’s highest state honour posthumously.
President Vladimir Putin today confirmed that the surviving pilot, identified as Captain Konstantin Murahtin, had been rescued by Russian military in a 12-hour long joint operation with Syrian government forces, and taken to a Russian air base.
He also responded by deploying one of the most fearsome weapons in the Russian military arsenal – the S-400 anti-aircraft system. The highly advanced missile system is capable of downing aircraft 250 miles away that are travelling at a height of 60,000ft.
At least 12 air strikes hit Latakia’s northern countryside as pro-government forces clashed with fighters from al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and Turkmen insurgents in the Jabal Akrad and Jabal Turkman areas, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
A commander of the Turkmen, ethnic Turks who are Syrian citizens, said missiles fired from Russian warships in the Mediterranean were also hitting the area, as well as heavy artillery shelling.
Hassan Haj Ali, the head of Liwa Suqour al-Jabal, a rebel group operating in western Syria, also said there were fierce battles in the area, with Russian aircraft supporting pro-government forces.
Another local rebel leader, Jahed Ahmad, says the Russians appear to be taking ‘revenge’ for the plane’s downing by Turkey, a key backer of the rebels in the area. Speaking from inside Syria via Skype on Wednesday, he says the Russian jets were providing cover for advancing Syrian ground forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies. source