Syrian rebels reportedly destroyed a Russian-made helicopter operated by the Syrian army on Tuesday while the chopper was searching for Russian fighter pilots downed earlier by a Turkish jet.
The helicopter made an emergency landing in Latakia province, a government controlled area, before it was destroyed by rebel fire. A film posted online shows the rebels using an anti-tank missile to take out the chopper.
Reported by AP, Zakaria al-Ahmad, a spokesman for the rebels, said the helicopter was flying over mountains in Latakia province and that his group fired a Tao missile that destroyed the chopper after it had landed.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the chopper made an emergency landing and the pilots ejected before the aircraft was hit. It is not clear why the helicopter made the emergency landing.
After Turkey shot down a Russian jet, Vladimir Putin warned Ankara of “significant consequences” for the downing of the fighter, noting that Russia had been “stabbed in the back.”
Turkey claims the jet was shot down for violating its airspace, however Moscow said the jet was 4 kilometres outside the Turkish border.
Reacting to the exchange, Putin said: “Of course our military is doing heroic work against terrorism... But the loss today is a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists.” He added that the Russian plane was downed “over the territory of Syria, using air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16."
Two pilots ejected from the fighter jet, but a video emerged online purporting to show a dead pilot. The second pilot was reportedly also killed.
PUTIN ON THE DOWNING OF RUSSIAN WARPLANE
Thank you for your condolences, including for the downing of our military plane. This event comes in the context of our fight against terrorism. Our military are fighting a heroic struggle against terrorism, without sparing themselves or and without regard for their own lives. But today’s loss was a blow in the back by the accomplices of terrorists. I can’t qualify this in any other way.
Our plane was downed over Syrian territory by an air-to-air missile from a Turkish F16. It crashed four kilometre from the Turkish border. At the time it was attacked, it was at an altitude of 6000m and one kilometre from the border with Turkey. In any case our pilots and our aircraft never threatened the territory of Turkey. That much is obvious.
The pilots were part of an operation against Isil in the mountainous areas of north Latakia, where there is a concentration of militants largely from the Russian Federation. That is, they were fulfilling their direct duty of preventing attacks by terrorists who might at any moment return to Russia. And these are people who can only be qualified as international terrorists.
We long ago established that large quantities of oil and oil products from [terrorist occupied] territory transit Turkey. Terror groups get a big financial boost from there. And now we're stabbed in the back, with strikes against our aircraft that are fighting terrorism. And that is after we have signed an agreement with our American partners to avoid clashes in the air, and Turkey was one of the countries that announced its participation in the US-led coalition against terrorism.
If Isil has such money, and we're talking about tens, hundreds of millions, possibly billions of dollars from oil revenues, plus protection from the armed forces of an entire country, then it is understandable why they are so audacious, so blatant, why they murder people in the most horrendous ways, whey they carry out terrorist attacks across the world including in the heart of Europe.
We will of course carefully analyse everything that happened. Today’s tragic event will have serious consequences including for Russia’s relationship with Turkey. We have always treated Turkey not just as a close neighbour but as a friendly state. I don’t know who had an interest in what happened today. It certainly wasn’t us. And instead of contacting us immediately, as far as we know the Turkish side first turned to their partners in Nato to discuss this incident. As if we had downed a Turkish plane [when it was] they who shot down one of ours.
What, do they want to put Nato at the service of Isil? I understand that every state has its own regional interests, and we will always treat them with respect. But we will never tolerate the perpetration crimes such as the one committed today. And of course, we hope that the international community will nonetheless find the strength to come together in the fight against this common evil.
In that connection, of course, we count on the active participation of all the countries in the region, and we are very grateful for your visit today, your Majesty. We continue to work with your secret service and military specialists, as with other countries in the region.
Below are a series of pictures taken of the Russian jet shot down by Turkish forces: