Body of 'Hero' Russian Pilot Killed in Syria Brought Home
The body of a Russian pilot killed in fighting with Islamists in Syria has been brought back to his home country, the defense ministry in Moscow said Tuesday.
"In cooperation with Turkish colleagues, Russian military intelligence brought back to Russia the body of an attack pilot, Major Roman Filipov, who died as a hero on February 3," the defense ministry said.
In a separate statement, the Kremlin said that the Hero of Russia award, the country's top honor, had been posthumously bestowed upon Filipov for his "heroism, courage and bravery."
Filipov will be laid to rest on Thursday with military honors in line with his family's wishes in the city of Voronezh, some 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Moscow, the defense ministry said.
After Filipov's warplane was shot down over Syria's Idlib province on Saturday he parachuted to the ground and was killed in a clash with Islamists as they tried to take him hostage.
Moscow said its Su-25 warplane had been shot down by a portable anti-aircraft missile system.
Armed with an automatic pistol, the badly wounded pilot opened fire on the rebels closing in on him and then blew himself up with a hand grenade to avoid capture.
Before taking his own life he shouted "This is for our guys!", according to video footage released by Islamists and broadcast by national television in Russia.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a powerful jihadist-dominated alliance, said the Russian warplane had been shot down in retaliation for a ferocious bombing campaign by Russian warplanes over Idlib.
Moscow says Filipov's plane was shot down during a mission to monitor a ceasefire in the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone set up by Russia, Turkey and Iran to reduce violence in the war-torn country.
Russia's defense ministry also said it had asked Turkey for help in receiving the wreckage of the Su-25 warplane.
Russian experts want to identify the origin of the anti-aircraft missile system used to shoot down the plane.
President Vladimir Putin announced on a visit to Syria in December that the task of Russian forces in Syria had been largely completed.
More than 40 Russian servicemen have reportedly been killed in Syria since Moscow's intervention in the conflict on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in 2015.