Chinadaily / A rebel fighter takes a picture of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in Syria’s northwest province of Idlib. Rebel fighters shot down the Russian plane and the pilot was killed during a ground fight with terrorists, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE MOSCOW – Massive Russian air strikes have killed at least 30 militants in northwest Syria, where a Russian fighter jet was shot down, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
A series of high-precision weapon strikes has been delivered in the area controlled by the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group, which brought down the Russian Su-25 jet by using a portable anti-aircraft missile system in the Syrian province of Idlib, said the statement.
“According to radio intercepts, more than 30 Jabhat al-Nusra militants were killed,” said the statement.
Earlier on Saturday, the ministry said a pilot survived the fighter jet crash but was later killed in a ground fight with terrorists.
“The pilot died in a fight with the terrorists,” an earlier statement said.
“The Russian center for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria and the Turkish side overseeing the Idlib de-escalation area are working to bring the Russian pilot’s body home,” it said.
The incident requires finding out which countries could have equipped the militants with the man-portable air defense system, Yury Shvytkin, deputy chairman of the Russian lower house’s defense committee, was quoted by Sputnik as saying.
In May 2017, the guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire, Russia, Iran and Turkey, agreed to set up the Syrian de-escalation zones in Syria, which includes Idlib province.
In December 2017, the Russian military announced that Syrian troops supported by Russian servicemen had completed the destruction of Islamic State terrorists in the war-torn country.
Later, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria.
Russia reportedly spent an average of 156 million roubles ($2.6 million) every day in the past few years on military operations against terrorist groups in Syria.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry on Saturday rejected US claims about the Syrian government using chemical weapons in the war as “lies”.
The ministry said in a statement that the US remarks about the use of chemical weapons in the Eastern Ghouta region east of the capital Damascus were “false claims”.
Such allegations were timed to undermine the efforts to resolve the Syrian war through a peaceful settlement between the Syrians without foreign interventions, it noted.
The Syrian government reaffirmed its position against the use of chemical weapons, and Syria has handed over all its chemical arsenals to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the ministry said.
The US and its allies are “desperately” searching for a pretext to target Syria, following the success of the Syrian army in its war against terror-designated militant groups across Syria, it pointed out.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently threatened Syria with military action if hard evidence is found to back up the claims of another sarin attack in Syria.
Last month, activists claimed the Syrian forces used chlorine in an attack on the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus, causing 21 people to suffer from breathing difficulties.
In April last year, the US struck a military base in central Syria with more than 50 Tomahawk missiles, in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack by the government forces on a rebel-held town in the northwestern province of Idlib.
The Syrian government denied the accusations, saying rebels mounted the attack to frame the government and cause the US to take military action.