A Russian pilot downed by rebel fighters in Syria killed himself with a grenade to avoid being captured by the jihadists, Moscow has confirmed.
Video footage filmed by the rebels themselves, sees Major Roman Filipov shouting ‘This is for our guys!’ before detonating the explosives as the fighters surround him.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that the 33-year-old was ‘fighting the rebels until the last minute’ and detonated the grenade when they approached.
Maj. Filipov, from Vladivostok, east Russia has been awarded Kremlin’s highest honour – the Hero of Russia medal – posthumously.
No escape: Video shot by the Al-Nusra Front show the jihadists moving in on Roman Filipov, who opts to detonate a hand grenade rather than be captured
In a statement seen by Russia Today, the Ministry said the pilot had ejected from his Sukhoi 25SM fighter jet after being hit with a missile from a portable surface-to-air system in Idlib, Syria.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to say who had supplied the weapons system which rebels had used to shoot down the plane, but that it was extremely worrying that such rockets were falling into the hands of ‘terrorists.’
After landing, Maj. Filipov remained in radio contact with the Russian airbase in Khmeimim, Syria, and reported shooting and killing two jihadist fighters with his hand gun as they closed in on him.
But realising his situation was hopeless, he pulled the pin on his grenade to kill himself, reportedly killing more rebels in the blast.
Maj. Filipov’s last words caught on the video, filmed by the Al-Qaeda linked group Al-Nusra Front, were: ‘This is for our guys’.
Downed: The 33-year-old old pilot had come under fire from rebel fighters from the Al-Qaeda linked group as he flew over the Idlib province in Syria
Crashed: A Rebel fighter is seen taking a picture of the downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in the the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo
Different stories: It was initially reported that Maj Filipov had been captured after his fighter jet was shot down over Idlib
Maj Filipov, who leaves behind a wife and a four-year-old daughter, was flying at 4,000 metres (13,123ft) when he was hit, and the jet crashed nearby.
Video and photos from the scene shows rebel fighters celebrating as the wreckage burns on the ground.
Fighter: Maj. Filipov reportedly shot and killed two rebel fighters with this handgun before he killed himself
Earlier reports suggested Maj. Filipov had been captured by rebels and separately that he had been killed in fighting.
But later it became clear that he had exploded his grenade to take his own life rather than be captured.
Syrian and Russian forces were reported to be on the ground at the scene of the incident aiming to retrieve the pilot’s remains.
Russia’s defence ministry confirmed the pilot had been shot down, saying: ‘A Russian Su-25 aircraft crashed during a flight over the Idlib de-escalation zone.
‘The pilot had enough time to announce he had ejected into the zone, under the control of al-Nusra Front fighters.
‘The pilot was killed in fighting against terrorists.’
Russia has been supporting the Syrian government in Idlib where President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces have been fighting against the Al-Nusra Front.
After Maj Filipov was shot down on Saturday, Russian jets intensified their raids on rebel-held towns and cities in the province
Proof: Documents belonging to Maj. Filipov appeared in footage shot by the jihadist rebels
Honoured: Maj Filipov, from Vladivostok, has been posthumously nominated for the Kremlin’s highest honour – the Hero of Russia
Civil defence sources in Idlib said air raids struck the towns of Kafr Nubl and Maasran, as well as the cities of Saraqeb, Maarat al Numan and Idlib, and that several deaths and dozens of injuries were reported as rescuers dug through the rubble.
A hospital was hit in Maarat al Numan, witnesses and residents said, and at least five people were feared killed in another attack that damaged a residential building in Kafr Nubl.
Video recorded by rescuers showed babies on stretchers being rushed by civil defence workers out of the damaged hospital while other rescuers fought to extinguish a fire.
In Idlib city, the provincial capital, one witness said a five-storey building was leveled and that at least fifteen people were feared dead.
Russia’s Defence Ministry denies aiming at civilians and says it targets only hardline Islamist militants in Syria.