Russian marine killed in chopper crash while on rescue operation in Syria
Russia says a member of the country’s Naval Infantry was killed after his Mi-8 helicopter made an emergency landing shortly after coming under militant fire in northwestern Syria.
A Tuesday statement by Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoy said that two Mi-8 helicopters had been deployed to the region to conduct a search-and-rescue operation to retrieve the two pilots aboard a Russian warplane that had been shot down by Turkish fighter jets earlier in the day.
In the course of the rescue operation, one of the choppers, “damaged by small-arms fire”, made an emergency landing “on neutral territory”, he said.
“The personnel of the search-and-rescue team and the helicopter crew were evacuated and are now at the Hmeymim airbase (in Syria’s western Latakia province). The helicopter was destroyed by mortar fire conducted from the territory controlled by illegal armed groups,” Rudskoy further noted, adding that the rescue operation was still under way.
On Tuesday morning, NATO member Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24M Fencer jet with two pilots aboard, claiming the warplane had repeatedly violated its airspace.
Russia, however, denies all of Ankara’s claims, maintaining that the jet was downed in Syrian airspace where Russia has been carrying out operations against the Daesh Takfiri terrorists since September 30 upon a request by the Damascus government.
Based on radar imaging from Russia’s Hmeymim airbase, the Turkish jet actually violated Syrian airspace to attack the Russian jet.
“The missile (fired from a Turkish F-16 jet) hit the Su-24M aircraft over the territory of Syria. The bomber crash place is on the territory of Syria four kilometers far from the borderline. The Su-24M crew managed to eject. According to the preliminary data, fire from the ground killed one of the pilots,” Rudskoy further said.
Meanwhile, an unnamed US official told Reuters that based on the detection of the heat signature of the Russian Su-24M, Washington believes that the aircraft was hit inside the Syrian airspace.