Russian Pilot Downed in Syria ‘Detonates Grenade’ to Avoid Capture

A video has recently emerged showing a Russian pilot, whose plane was shot down by jihadists in Syria, detonating a grenade to avoid being captured by them.

Russia’s military said that after the pilot’s Su-25 fighter jet was hit by an al-Qaeda missile, he ejected and fought back, trading fire with the militants. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Major Roman Filipov successfully bailed out of the plane but was soon surrounded by the jihadists in the northern Idlib province. Soon after that, he blew himself up with a hand grenade.

The video was released by Hayet Tahrir al-Sham – a group which includes fighters from the former al Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. It shows armed men running toward the jet. Right before the pilot detonates the grenade, he is heard saying “This is for our guys.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoihu has ordered that Filipov be honored posthumously with the nation’s highest medal, the Hero of Russia, The Washington Post reports.

“The pilot died heroically. The pilot’s family and friends have our condolences, and we are proud of our heroes,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

Filipov’s plane was struck by a shoulder-launched MANPAD missile while he was flying low. The Saturday incident was the first time that a Russian plane has been shot down by militants since Russia launched an air campaign in support of President Bashar Assad’s forces in 2015. It took place in one of four “de-escalation zones” monitored by Turkey, Russia and Iran.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the plane was on an observational flight, but opposition activists claim otherwise, saying that it had dropped air-to-surface rockets before being shot down.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the incident has incited retaliation bombings all across the province, resulting in dozens of people dead, many of whom civilians.