A Russian Pilot Died While Attacking Civilians in Syria
Insurgents shot down Roman Filipov's Su-25
On Dec. 11, 2017, Russian president Vladimir Putin, gave a speech to members of the Russian air force — the Russian acronym is “VKS” — at Hmemmem air base in Syria. The most notable part of Putin’s comments was his order for withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria.
But as with two earlier announced withdrawals of Russian troops from Syria, Putin’s December 2017 order was a mere cover-up for a rotation of VKS aircraft and crews in the country. The number of Russian aircraft remained stable at between 30 and 40. And since November 2017, the Russians are back to flying up to 100 combat sorties a day – this time in support of a large-scale offensive of Iranian-controlled militias attacking eastern Idlib.
At top — the fin of Su-25SM Blue 06, shot down by Jaysh An Nasr outside of Ma’asaran in central eastern Idlib on Feb. 3, 2018. Jaysh An Nasr photo. Above — the macabre results of a Russian air strike on a column of vehicles full of refugees outside the village of Tel Ahdiya on Feb. 2, 2018. SCD photo
As so often over the last two years, the Russian air strikes largely ignore jhadists and instead target the Syrian opposition and civilians, instead – thus indirectly supporting jihadist efforts to destroy the remnants of the Syrian insurgency.
Unarmed civilians tend to offer no armed resistance. Therefore, VKS pilots became ever more reckless while attacking them. Russian Su-25 attack planes could be observed rocketing and strafing civilian vehicles from low altitudes. On Feb. 1, 2017, one of the VKS’s Su-25s was hit by ground fire during a low-altitude attack – although it seems to have returned safely to Hmemmem air base.
Two days later on Feb. 3, 2018, Su-25SM serial 06, flown by Maj. Roman Filipov, was shot down while attacking a refugee column outside Ma’asaran, a village around four kilometers south of Sarqib.
A column of refugees under attack by Russian Su-25s outside the village of Tel Ahdiya on Feb. 2, 2018. SCD photo
The story of the weapon used to down Filipov’s Su-25 is likely to become highly interesting. Two days before the shoot-down, reports circulated about Turkish-supported insurgents assaulting Kurdish militants in the Efrin enclave in northwestern Syria — and capturing a few Russian-made 9K38 Igla-3/SA-183 surface-to-air missiles.
Video evidence from the shoot-down of Filipov’s Su-25 indicates that the weapon used was indeed a 9K38 Igla-3. Whether it was one of the 9K38s captured from the Kurds remains unclear.
Filipov’s Su-25 falling in flames after being hit. Photo via CITeam
After ejecting, Filipov resisted capture and finally killed himself using a hand grenade. While widely praised as a “hero’s act,” supposedly undertaken with the aim of avoiding being beheaded by Jihadists, Filipov’s suicide was actually in vain. He came down inside an area controlled by Jaysh An Nasr, and would therefore have been captured by JAN and not by jihadists.
The Russian pilot would almost certainly have been exchanged via Turkey. The same happened with three different Syrian pilots in 2017.