Russian news agencies have confirmed that one of the pilots in a downed Russian jet from a Turkish F-16 and a Marine who was engaged in the search and rescue operation of those pilots, were killed by Syrian rebel forces.
Hours after the Turkish government shot down the jet, a Russian Mi-8 helicopter was sent to recover the downed pilots and also came under fire. Syrian rebels opposed to the Assad government have claimed responsibility.
According to The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing in a nearby government-held area and one Marine was killed in the process.
Moscow’s statements come after a contradiction to earlier reports that said both pilots were killed as they descended to Earth by Turkmen forces, according to Alpaslan Celik who is a deputy commander of a Turkmen brigade in Syria.
“Both of the pilots were dead on retrieval. Our comrades opened fire into the air and they died in the air,” said Celik.
Turkmen forces released a video on social media showing what appears to be a Russian pilot lying on the ground surrounded by a group of men praising Allah.
Rebels of 1st Coatal Div say Russ helo landed with mechanical fault before they targeted with Tow missile around 6km from crash site.
— Tom Coghlanتوم کوگلن (@TomCoghlan) November 24, 2015
Tensions are rising between the Russian Federation and the West as Russian president Vladimir Putin has vowed to respond to the incident, claiming the jet did not enter Turkey’s air space.
However, the Turkish government continues to assert that the jet was in their territory and they have stated in the past that Russia violated their air space on two other occasions.
Putin declared the incident was a “stab in the back delivered by accomplices of the terrorists.”
He also warned there would be “serious consequences” for Moscow’s relations with Turkey.
President Obama defended Turkey’s right to defend its territory and airspace, adding that it’s important to find out exactly what happened and to take preventative measures to “discourage any kind of escalation.”
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