Russian media have lauded a pilot killed in Syria as a hero, saying he detonated his grenade to avoid being captured by jihadists who had shot his plane out of the sky, BBC reports.
Roman Filipov’s reported last words were: “Here’s for the guys.”
His Sukhoi-25 ground-attack aircraft was shot down over rebel-held Idlib province. He survived the attack and ejected, but died in a ground fight. Former al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham said it had attacked the plane.
TV Zvezda, which is controlled by Russia’s defence ministry, said the pilot was posthumously presented with the Hero of Russia medal, also known as the Gold Star.
It reported that he told his superiors he had been hit by a missile, before ejecting himself from the plane.
The BBC has not been able to independently verify what he said at the time or how this information was obtained.
The UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier said that fighters had captured the pilot and later killed him.
The Syrian government, backed by Russian air power, launched a major offensive in December against rebel groups in Idlib. Air strikes in the region intensified on Sunday, reportedly killing about 20 people, the day after Mr Filipov’s plane was shot down.
Nine people were also treated for breathing difficulties after a bomb believed to be filled with chlorine was dropped on the town of Saraqeb.