Tens of thousands of Russians have attended the funeral of a Russian pilot who blew himself up to avoid being captured by the militants in Syria who downed his plane.
Major Roman Filipov bailed out successfully on Saturday from the burning plane over Syria’s northern Idlib province, but was surrounded by al-Qaeda-linked militants when he landed.
The Russian Defense Ministry stated.he engaged in a gun battle with the militants and then blew himself up with a hand grenade when they came close.
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Russian soldiers carrying a coffin containing the body of Major Roman Filipov after it was transported to Voronezh for his funeral
A woman and a girl place flowers on the coffin of the dead airman at his funeral. Major Filipov was married with a four-year old daughter
Major Filipov has been awarded the Hero of Russia medal, the nation’s highest honour
Soldiers stand to attention beside the coffin of Major Filipov during his funeral
Over 30,000 people in the southwestern city of Voronezh attended the ceremony
Among the senior officers at the funeral were Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov (left) and Sergei Surovikin commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces
President Vladimir Putin has posthumously awarded Filipov, from Vladivostok, east Russia, the nation’s highest medal, the Hero of Russia.
Over 30,000 people in the southwestern city of Voronezh attended Thursday’s funeral ceremony for the pilot who was married with a four-year old daughter.
As stated by Major Filipov’s wingman, after the fighter pilot was downed by an terrorist-fired missile he chose to detonate a grenade on himself rather than be captured.
The unnamed gunner of the second Sukhoi-25 jet accompanying Major Roman Filipov on the routine patrol in Syria, continued defending his comrade from the air while his doomed commander fought the terrorists on foot.
Major Filipov’s last moments before blowing himself up were filmed by the rebels who shot down the plane
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’
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated.it was too early to say who had supplied the weapons system which rebels had used to shoot down the plane
Alexander Gusev, acting governor of the Voronezh Region (centre), and Viktor Bondarev chairman of the Russian Federation’s Defencee and Security Committee
Major Filipov’s SU 25 aircraft was brought down by a missile fired byan al-Qaeda linked group n
Flowers were placed by some of the thousands of mourners on the 33-year-old officer’s coffin
Russian orthodox Metropolitan Sergius at the funeral. Metropolitan is the title given to Russian orthodox bishops
Giving his firsthand account of the deadly battle, Filipov’s wingman revealed the commander urged him to fly to safety after taking a direct hit from a missile.
But despite ignoring his commander’s orders and firing on the Al Nusra Front fighters, he was unable to save Filipov, who detonated his own hand grenade in a last act of defiance.
Video footage, filmed by the rebels themselves, sees Filipov shouting ‘This is for our guys!’ before detonating the explosives as the fighters surround him.
The Russian Defense Ministry stated.that the 33-year-old was ‘fighting the rebels until the last minute’ and detonated the grenade when they approached.
Filipov had ordered his wingman to ‘head for the clouds’ but the pilot stuck by his commander.
The pilot, who was interviewed by the Russian army daily Krasnaya Zvezda, said: ‘His voice was firm when I warned him “You’re under attack. Evasive action! Keep pitching! Keep maneuvering!” according to a Russian news agency.
Filipov is stated.to have replied: ‘I can see that,’ before going on calmly with the controls.
The surviving pilot continued: ‘He went on quite calmly, as if he was talking about something very routine, of secondary importance.’
Filipov’s final words from his aircraft are stated.to have been: ‘I’ve been hit… real hard… the right engine’s on fire… trying to head south… the left one is about to die…’
About 20 seconds later, there was the emergency message: ‘Call the CSAR… (Combat Search and Rescue team),’ Filipov’s wingman said.
In a statement seen by Russia Today, the Ministry stated.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 stated.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, 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.
‘Brave’ pilot praised by his teacher
Pilot Roman Filipov was ‘brave as a lion’ and had followed in the footsteps of his father as a combat air force man, it was revealed.
As the Kremlin saluted him, Russian defence officials vowed to support his widow Olga and their two young children, along with his parents.
The 33 year old had wanted to be a pilot from the moment he first went to school, stated.his class teacher.
He came from a military family and his father Nikolay was a decorated air force pilot who flew combat missions during the war in Chechnya.
His mother Elena and younger sister Marina also served in the Russian military.
The director of School No. 85 in Voronezh, Galina Klepikova, said: ‘He got mainly the highest marks…
His class teacher Lyudmila Lazareva (pictured) said: ‘He was never childish, but adult, serious, reasonable, and balanced. He was among the best’
‘Teachers speak of him only well: he was fit, modest, blue-eyed, fair-haired, neat. The boy was fond of sports, he studied well. He dreamed of being a pilot.’
His class teacher Lyudmila Lazareva said: ‘He was never childish, but adult, serious, reasonable, and balanced. He was among the best.
‘He had a sense of justice. That was how he behaved – he knew what was right.’
When she heard of his death she said: ‘I was so shocked. I was just in panic…. For me, my pupils are always children.
‘This poor child – that’s what I think now.’
His classmate Roman Dudin stated.his father had been his inspiration.
‘When we were studying [at school], there was a conflict in Chechnya and his father took part in hostilities. He was a combat pilot.’
Major Filipov lived with his wife and two children in the Far East off Russia in Chernigovka, Primorsky region.
Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu called on Vladimir Putin to posthumously grant the Su-25 pilot the Hero of Russia honour, the country’s highest award.
A spokesman for Shoigu stated.the defence ministry ‘will fully support’ his widow and children and also his parents.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: ‘The pilot died heroically…. We are proud of our heroes.’
His commanders saw him as a ‘brave pilot’ who ‘enjoyed well-deserved authority in his regiment and amongst his subordinates in the squadron’
A military source said: ‘He was brave as a lion and died a hero. We have only pride in him.’
A spokesman said: ‘The pilot did his best to keep the plane in the air as long as he could. He managed to report to his commanders he had been attacked with a missile.
‘Filipov ejected himself and landed near the terrorists-held village of Tell-Debes. Until the last moments of his life he fought agianst the terrorists with his hand weapon.
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
‘Filipov blew himself up with a grenade after being heavily injured and surrounded by terrorists when the attackers were meters away.’
He was ‘an experienced pilot – it was not his first tour in Syria.’
‘Major Roman Filipov accomplished dozens of combat missions in Syria with flying colours to destroy international terrorist fighters and escort humanitarian convoys of the Russian centre for reconciliation of opposing sides to populated localities liberated from terrorists.’
His commanders saw him as a ‘brave pilot’ who ‘enjoyed well-deserved authority in his regiment and amongst his subordinates in the squadron.’
He was a graduate of the Krasnodar Military Aviation Institute, and had climbed every step of the career ladder, from a senior pilot to a squadron deputy commander, stated.the defence ministry.
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’s last words caught on the video, filmed by the Al-Qaeda linked group Al-Nusra Front, were: ‘This is for our guys’.
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
Russia’s Defence Ministry denies aiming at civilians and says it targets only hardline Islamist militants in Syria. Pictured: Maj Filippov
Civil defence sources in Idlib stated.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 stated.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.