Syrian rebels have shot down a Russian warplane in north-western Idlib province on Saturday, the Russian defence ministry has confirmed.
The pilot of the aircraft, a Sukhoi 25, reportedly used his ejection seat after his plane was hit by a man-carried portable air defence missile.
He was later killed when rebels tried to capture him.
“The pilot managed to report the ejection in the area controlled by the militants of Jabhat al-Nusra, but later he died fighting the terrorists,” a statement by the Russian ministry of defence said.
The downing of the aircraft has been claimed by Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham, commonly known as Tahrir al-Sham. The group is spearheaded by the former al-Nusra Front, which used to be al-Qaeda‘s branch in Syria.
A video circulating on social media shows a dead body of what is purportedly the pilot of the downed plane.
Other videos show fires raging while rebels guard the plane’s crash site.
فيديو: من مكان سقوط حطام الطائرة ..الفصائل الثورية تتمكن من إسقاط طائرة حربية روسية من نوع سيخوي 25 في ريف ادلب 3-2-2018
— هادي العبدالله Hadi (@HadiAlabdallah) February 3, 2018
Shortly after Russian authorities put out this statement, warplanes conducted more air raids on the area where the plane was shot down.
According to the ministry, at least 30 people were killed in those bombardments, press agency TASS reported.
The Russian plane was shot down above Idlib province, which is one of the so-called de-escalation zones set up in Syria last September in an effort to scale back the conflict.
However, bombardments from Syrian government forces and their Russian allies have continued.
Hospitals, markets and bakeries across Idlib province, believed to be the largest remaining rebel-held area in Syria, have been hit by government air raids.
Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the area, which is home to more than two million people, most of them internally displaced.