Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a former al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, has shot down a Russian military plane that flew over Idlib province in northwest Syria on Saturday and killed the pilot. The aircraft has been shot over the village of Khan al-Subl, a municipality near the city of Saraqeb.
“The rebel factions shot down a Sukhoi 25 single-engine, twin-engine plane, created by the Soviet Union in 1975. The Russian pilot has descended on a parachute before being captured and then killed,” Rami Abdel Rahman has reported, head of the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, an NGO based in the United Kingdom that has served as a source of information since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, in 2011.
“The pilot has died while fighting the Islamist rebels who had shot down his plane and were taking him captive,” Rahman said. The aircraft has been demolished in an area in which there are opposition groups to the regime of Bashar al-Assad hard-line in addition to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which has been attributed the attack in a statement published at the last minute of this afternoon.
“The Russian Ministry of Defense informed the newspaper Novaya Gazeta that the pilot was Roman Fillipov, a former Ukrainian air force military man and for three years a soldier in the service of the Kremlin.
Syrian troops launched an offensive against Idlib in late December, backed by Russian warplanes. “There were dozens of Russian airstrikes in the area in the last 24 hours, this plane was also carrying out operations in the area,” said Abdel Rahman.
Opposition factions have fired at planes of the Syrian regime in the past, but it is very rare that Russian warplanes fly. In August 2016, a Russian military helicopter was shot down over Syria and the five people on board were killed.
Moscow, which supports the regime of Bashar al-Assad, began carrying out air strikes in Syria in September 2015. Two months later, Turkey shot down a Russian warplane, which caused the worst crisis in the relations between the two countries since the end of the Cold War.