Pilot chose to ‘blow himself up’
A DOWNED Russian pilot yelled, "This is for our guys!", before killing himself with a grenade to avoid capture by jihadists.
Major Roman Filipov ejected from his stricken Sukhoi 25SM over Syria after being hit with a surface-to-air missile, reports The Sun.
Rebels opened fire on him as he parachuted to the ground but he managed to land safely, new footage is said to show.
The 33-year-old pilot, who was still in radio contact with his Khmeimim base, is reported to have shot dead two rebels with his Stechkin handgun as fanatics closed in on him.
But realising his situation was hopeless, he pulled the pin on his grenade to kill himself after rebel footage captured him yelling: "This is for our guys."
Filipov, from Vladivostok, has been posthumously nominated for the Kremlin's highest honour, the Hero of Russia, it was reported.
Earlier reports suggested Filipov had been captured by rebels and separately that he had been killed in fighting.
But later it became clear that he had exploded his grenade to take his own life rather than be captured.
Syrian and Russian forces were reported to be on the ground at the scene of the incident aiming to retrieve the pilot's remains.
Russia's defence ministry confirmed the pilot had been shot down, saying: "A Russian Su-25 aircraft crashed during a flight over the Idlib de-escalation zone.
"The pilot had enough time to announce he had ejected into the zone, under the control of al-Nusra Front fighters. The pilot was killed in fighting against terrorists."
Russian aircraft supporting Assad's army have been targeting Syrian rebels in the area of Idlib province.
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said: "Rebel factions shot down a Sukhoi 25. The Russian pilot came down in a parachute, before being captured."
The Syrian opposition had shown on social media what they said was the wreckage of the plane and the body of the pilot surrounded by rebels.
They said the downed warplane was one of the planes used to target civilian convoys fleeing along a major Syrian highway from villages that the army and foreign militias had overrun.
Abdul Rahman added: "There have been dozens of Russian air strikes in the area over the past 24 hours. This plane was also carrying out raids there."
One clip allegedly shows Syrian rebel ground troops launching the ground-to-air missile that downed the plane.
The Kremlin did not immediately respond to the reports, but it was likely the attack would spark a furious response from Moscow.
Russian air force losses have been rare since it began its Syria campaign in September 2015.
Two Russian fighter pilots were shot at as they parachuted to the ground after their jet was brought down by Turkish F16s in 2015.
They had allegedly ignored repeated warnings they were invading Turkish airspace.
Opposition groups have in the past shot down Syrian planes, but rarely those of the Russian army.
In August 2016, five Russian soldiers were killed after their helicopter was shot down by rebel groups in Idlib.
In November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian military aircraft, which caused a diplomatic crisis between Moscow and Ankara.
This story was originally published in The Sun and is reprinted with permission.