MOSCOW, Russia — Russian and Syrian special forces have freed the second pilot of a Russian warplane shot down by Turkey and he is now at a Russian air base in Syria, Moscow’s defense minister said Wednesday.
“The operation ended successfully. The second pilot has been brought to our base. He is alive and well,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
“I would like to thank all our guys who worked at great risk all night and finished this job at around 3:40 am (0040 GMT),” Shoigu said in televised comments.
President Vladimir Putin later confirmed the second pilot was “saved” and “he and the other participants… including in the rescue operation will be awarded state honors.”
The plane’s other pilot who died as he was fired at from the ground will posthumously be given Russia’s highest award for valor, the Hero of Russia medal, Putin said.
Shoigu also said that Russia is sending its most hi-tech air defense system to its air base in Syria to help bolster its firepower over the war-torn country after the downing of its jet.
“The S-400 anti-aircraft missile system will be deployed to the Hmeimim airbase,” Shoigu was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
Putin on Wednesday backed a recommendation from the foreign ministry for Russians not to visit Turkey.
“After such tragic events like the destruction of our plane and the death of our pilot, this is a necessary measure,” Putin said in televised comments.