"There was no warning": Surviving Russian pilot speaks out
THE only surviving pilot from the Russian jet shot down by Turkey on Tuesday has claimed he and his killed comrade did not violate the country's airspace and were given no warning.
Captain Konstantin Murahtin's comments were reported by state-owned Russian media after he managed to parachute to the ground and evade rebels, before being rescued by Syrian and Russian special forces in an overnight operation.
He was quoted claiming there were no visual or radio warnings issued by Turkey, despite authorities there releasing audio backing their claim the pilots were contacted 10 times before being fired on.
"There were no warnings. Not via the radio, not visually. There was no contact whatsoever," Capt Murahtin said.
"That's why we were keeping our combat course as usual...if they wanted to warn us, they could have shown themselves by heading on a parallel course.
"But there was nothing. And the rocket hit our tail completely unexpectedly. We didn't even see it in time to take evasive manoeuvres."
In Turkey's audio, a voice speaking in English can be heard ordering the Su-24 to "change your heading south immediately" as it neared the edge of Syrian airspace.
"This is Turkish air force speaking - en garde. You are approaching Turkish airspace," it warns.
Alpaslan Celik, a deputy commander in a Syrian Turkmen brigade, holds handles believed to be parts of a parachute of the downed Russian warplane
Turkey says this warning was repeated every 30 seconds for five minutes, but was ignored.
Capt Murahtin said he and his commander, Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov, knew the area they were bombing in Syria's Latakia province "like the back of their hands".
"I can't wait until I get the all-clear from the medics, so that I can step back into the ranks," he reportedly added.
"I'm going to ask our command to keep me on this base (in Syria) - I have a debt to repay, for my commander."
The plane was downed by an air-to-air missile launched by a Turkish F-16 and landed in the Turkmen mountains in Syria, around 2.5 miles from the Turkish border.
Footage showed that both pilots managed to eject before the missile hit but a Free Syrian Army-affiliated rebel group on the ground opened fire and killed Lt Col Peshkov as he parachuted to the ground.
Vladimir Putin has posthumously made him a Hero Of The Russian Federation, while CApt Murahtin has been awarded Russia's Order Of Courage.
The same accolade was given to Naval Infantry Soldier Alexandr Pozynich, who was killed when anti-Assad rebels opened fire on a Russian helicopter searching for the pilots, forcing it to emergency land before blowing it up with an anti-tank missile.