MOSCOW — A Russian fighter jet was shot down in a rebel-controlled area of Idlib Province in northern Syria on Saturday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, adding that the pilot survived the initial attack by parachuting from the plane but was killed by members of a militia on the ground.
The downing of the jet occurred in one of the country’s so-called de-escalation zones established last year by Russia, Iran and Turkey, in an attempt to lessen the bloodshed in Syria’s long civil war.
The Russian Su-25 warplane was patrolling the Idlib area when it was struck by a missile, launched from an area controlled by rebels, the ministry said in a statement. The pilot has yet to be identified.
The rebel-held area where the plane was shot down, in the northwest of Idlib Province, is controlled by several different rebel factions, including the Free Syria Army, Islamist groups and Tahrir al-Sham, an Al Qaeda-affiliated alliance.
Moaz al-Shami, a media activist who lives in Idlib Province and who regularly posts video footage from the area, appears in one of the videos and describes the fighters who downed the plane as “heroes,” avenging civilians killed in airstrikes by Russian jets.
Since President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia first ordered his forces to Syria, Russia has lost four warplanes, four helicopters and about 50 servicemen in the conflict.
In a later statement, the Russian Defense Ministry said that it used high-precision weapons to kill more than 30 rebel forces in the area where the attack on the Russian aircraft was launched. Russian authorities, along with Turkish forces who are responsible for the de-escalation zone, are working to retrieve the pilot’s body.
In December, Mr. Putin ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, declaring their mission completed. However, some Russian warplanes have stayed at the Hmeimim air base, which became Russia’s permanent air force facility in Syria.
In Moscow, Russian lawmakers promised a thorough investigation of the crash.
“Politically, this is very important and will have far-reaching consequences,” Franz Klintsevich, a member of the Russian Federation Council told Interfax, a Russian news agency.
Others blamed the United States for supplying Syrian rebels with weapons capable of shooting down the warplane.
“We have warned that the Americans will deliver such equipment, and they cannot control it later,” Aleksei Chepa, a member of the State Duma, told Interfax, adding that concerns had been expressed before that the weapons could bring down military and civilian planes.
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