Missing Russian jet pilot ‘alive and well’ in Syria after 12 hour rescue operation
A Russian pilot who went missing after his jet was shot down by Turkey while taking part in air strikes over Syria was rescued in a 12-hour operation involving special forces, Russia says.
The pilot is “alive and well” at a Russian air base in Syria, it says.
His co-pilot and a marine involved in a failed rescue attempt were killed.
Turkey said the jet had strayed into its airspace but Russian President Vladimir Putin says the plane was flying over Syrian territory.
It is not clear what has happened to the body of the other pilot, who was killed by gunfire as he parachuted from his burning plane.
Tensions have escalated between the two countries over the incident, and Russia has broken off military contacts with Turkey. The US, the EU and the UN have all appealed for calm.
After Turkey became the first Nato member to shoot down a Russian plane in over half a century, the question now is how will Moscow respond?
President Putin called Turkey an “accomplice of terrorists” and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cancelled a planned trip to the Turkish capital Ankara on Wednesday.
But the UN and Nato have urged both sides to de-escalate the crisis. According to Ankara, the Russian Su-24 was warned 10 times about entering Turkish airspace, though Moscow says there was no such communication.
But Turkey also said the violation lasted just 17 seconds. And given signs that a united front was beginning to form against Islamic State, there will be diplomatic pressure on both sides to focus instead on the common threat from the militants.
The tough talk from Ankara and Moscow will no doubt continue – but whether there will be serious retaliation is less clear.
President Putin has described the downing of the plane as a “stab in the back”, and warned of serious consequences.
Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan has defended the action, saying “everyone must respect the right of Turkey to protect its borders”, but he stressed he did not want to escalate tensions further.
Turkey is a member of Nato. The alliance has backed Turkey’s version of events, although it, too, is calling for “diplomacy and de-escalation” to resolve the situation.
The two pilots – Lt Col Oleg Peshkov and Capt Konstantin Murakhtin – came under ground fire after they parachuted from their burning plane, Russia said.
Lt Col Peshkov was killed, and there had been various reports about the fate
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