The Russian air force pilot that was shot down and killed in Syria on Saturday, has been identified by the Ministry of Defense. The Russians have been extremely close-mouthed about their casualties during the fighting there and this statement was interesting.
The air force officer appeared quite nervous and was obviously reading off a teleprompter or cue cards that appeared off-camera.
In a statement released Monday, the Russian Ministry of Defense said the aviator, Maj. Roman Filipov, managed to eject from his Su-25 ground-attack aircraft after it was hit by a surface-to-air missile in the northwest province of Idlib.
After struggling to keep the plane in the air, Filipov bailed out in the vicinity of Tell Debes, a settlement held by Syrian militants fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad, the statement said.
It said that Filipov held his ground as the militant fighters approached, exchanging fire with his sidearm. After being wounded, the statement said, Filipov blew himself up with a hand grenade as the fighters closed in on his position.
Filipov — described by the Russian military as an “experienced pilot” with previous service in Syria — was not the first Russian aviator to be shot down since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent warplanes to back the Syrian government in September 2015. In November that year, a Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft near the Syria-Turkey border, sparking a confrontation between Moscow and Ankara.
Much about Russian casualties in Syria appears obscured by military secrecy. Unlike the US Department of Defense, which releases the names of servicemembers who die in combat after next of kin are notified, the Russian government has not published a comprehensive list of its casualties in Syria.
The Russians rarely, if ever will announce the names or numbers of ground troops killed in Syria, nor will they announce the numbers of military contractors killed, which they don’t consider part of their Ministry of Defense.
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