A Russian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet has been shot down in a rebel-held area in Syria’s north-western province of Idlib.
The Russian defence ministry said the pilot had ejected into an area believed to be controlled by the al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance.
Although he survived the crash he was killed in a ground fight, Moscow said.
The Syrian government, Russia’s ally, launched a major offensive in December against rebel groups in Idlib.
What more do we know of the incident?
The Sukhoi-25, a close-support ground-attack aircraft, was operating over the town of Maasran in Idlib.
There had been dozens of Russian air strikes in the area over the previous 24 hours, monitoring groups said.
Video posted on social media showed the jet being hit and quickly catching fire, before spiralling to the ground.
Video from the ground showed the wreckage with red stars on the wings.
Russia’s defence ministry said: “The pilot had enough time to report that he had ejected in an area controlled by the militants of Jabhat al-Nusra.
“During a battle with terrorists, the pilot was killed.”
Jabhat al-Nusra was rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which merged in 2017 with other groups as the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance.
Other video on social media showed a bloodied body in a uniform.
How are the Russians responding?
The defence ministry said it was making all possible efforts to retrieve the body.
However, a slew of social media posts also reported a salvo of cruise missiles had been fired into Idlib province from Russian navy vessels in the Mediterranean.
The Russian defence ministry confirmed only that “a series of high-precision weapons strikes has been delivered on the area”.
Who shot the plane down?
It is not yet clear – no-one has said they carried out the attack.
There are rebel groups in the Idlib area other than Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
As to the weapon used, there is only speculation on social media, although the Russian defence ministry said it was probably “a portable anti-aircraft missile system” also known as a MANPAD, or shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile.
Is this a rare event?
Very. It could be the first time rebels have shot down a Russian fighter jet since Moscow began its Syria campaign in September 2015, although rebels did bring down a helicopter in 2016.
About 45 Russian military personnel have been confirmed dead in Syria, along with an unknown number of contractors.
Here are the air force losses:
- Dec 2017: Shelling damages several planes at the Hmeimim airbase, with two Russian servicemen killed
- Dec 2016: A Tu-164 carrying 92 people – including army musicians – crashes into the Black Sea after taking off for Syria from Sochi, killing all on board
- Aug 2016: All five people on board a helicopter are killed when it is shot down over Idlib
- Nov 2015: Turkish warplanes shoot down a Sukhoi-24. One pilot is killed, the other rescued. The incident sparks a severe deterioration of bilateral relations
What’s going on in Idlib?
It is supposed to be a “de-escalation zone”, as agreed by Turkey, Russia and Iran, but fighting escalated in November and the Syrian government launched a major offensive there in December.
The main adversary is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
The UN says some 100,000 civilians have been displaced by the fighting.
There are 2.65 million people in north-western Syria as a whole, the UN says, and 1.16 million of them are internally displaced people (IDPs).
Russian fighter jet shot down in Syria’s Idlib province