Syrian rebels shot down a Russian Su-25 fighter jet in the country’s Idlib province on February 3. Russia's Defense Ministry said the pilot ejected, fought with rebels on the ground and then blew himself up with a grenade as they approached him. It identified the downed pilot as Major Roman Filipov and said he had been posthumously awarded a Hero of Russia medal.
In a video statement posted Monday on the Defense Ministry’s Facebook page, Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, Commander-in-Chief of Russian forces in Syria, said the Su-25 was “flying over the Idlib de-escalation zone for controlling ceasefire regime observance.”
The Conflict Intelligence Team @CITeam_en, an open-source intelligence group, challenged Surovikin’s claim in a Twitter post, saying the Su-25 fired ”unguided air-to-surface rockets” seconds before it was hit by a MANPAD (man-portable air-defense system) missile.
The @CITeam_en referred to a YouTube video of the shooting down of the Su-25 that it says is authentic.
“The video was likely shot by either activists or militants from the area. It was uploaded by an activist from nearby Hama province who was in the area on February 3,” Kirill Mikhailov, @CITeam_en researcher told Polygraph.info via email. The same person uploaded another video of the incident to YouTube.
“Unlike some other videos published at the time of the crash, it does not appear to be a video from another incident involving a different type of aircraft. In the video at 0:38, the Su-25 is likely hit, as evidenced by joyful exclamations of onlookers. The video matches the weather and plane maneuvers shown in other videos of the incident. Moreover, there are no known Su-25 shootdowns in recent conflicts that were caught on video,” Mikhailov said.
The one minute and 10 second video shows two aircraft seemingly flying together until one of them changes course and disappears. At approximately 0:23, the aircraft flying solo appears to be launching airstrikes, and the sound of rockets being fired can clearly be heard in the background.
At approximately 0:38, the aircraft is likely hit by a missile: the video shows the flames coming from the jet, after which it starts trailing thick smoke and losing altitude.
The Russian air force has been accused of indiscriminate bombings in Syria that have killed thousands of civilians.
An airstrike by a Russian Su-25 occurred in the same area of Idlib province just four days before the fighter jet was shot down. That earlier attack reportedly destroyed the last remaining hospital in the area.
However, there was no reports of the targets hit by the Su-25 on February 3. Conflict Intelligence Team’s Mikhailov said: “The rockets used by the Su-25 are more of a frontline weapon and would be used to strike a military position, and such strikes are generally not reported.”