The surviving crew member of a Russian fighter jet shot down by Turkey said on Wednesday the plane received no warnings from the Turkish Air Force and did not fly over Turkish air space, Russian news agencies reported.
The Russian military pilot whose plane was shot down by Turkey and crashed in Syria arrived on Wednesday at an air base in Latakia province after being rescued by a Syrian army commando unit, Syrian and Russian officials said.
Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian news agencies the man was rescued in a 12-hour operation which ended in the early hours on Wednesday and was “safe and sound” at Russia’s air base in the government-controlled area in Syria.
Turkey shot down the Russian warplane on Tuesday, saying it ignored repeated warnings after crossing into its airspace from Syria. One of the two pilots was killed and captured by Syrian rebels who said they were searching for the other. The incident inflamed tensions between both countries, while Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of “significant consequences”.
A statement from the Syrian armed forces on Wednesday said a special unit carried out overnight a “qualitative” operation with the Russian forces and rescued one of the two pilots.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also confirmed a second pilot was rescued.
In a statement carried by Syria’s official news agency SANA, the army said the Syrian and Russian forces penetrated into areas where “terrorists” are entrenched at a depth of 4.5 kilometres and rescued the pilot. It said he was in “good health”.
Russia’s ambassador to France also said the second pilot was in the hands of the Syrian army. Ambassador Alexander Orlov said on Europe-1 radio that one of the pilots was wounded, then killed on the ground by “jihadists”.
He said the other “managed to escape and be rescued by the Syrian army”. He didn’t elaborate.
Orlov accused Turkey of being an “accomplice” of Islamic State extremists and playing an ambiguous role in Syria’s civil war.
However he played down concerns of escalation of violence among the international players involved in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that his country does not wish to escalate tensions with Russia over the downing of the plane.
Speaking at an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in Istanbul, Erdogan said that Turkey favors “peace, dialogue and diplomacy”.
Erdogan, however, defended his country’s move to shoot down the plane saying: “No one should expect Turkey to stay silent to border violations or the violation of its rights.”
Watch | Turkey shoots down Russian military plane
Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday that it said had ignored repeated warnings and crossed into its airspace from Syria.