Syrian army confirms rescue of Russian pilot

Syria’s army is confirming that it has rescued a Russian pilot whose plane was shot down by Turkey in an overnight "qualitative" joint operation with Russian forces.
   
A statement issued Wednesday by the Syrian armed forces says Syrian and Russian forces penetrated into areas where "terrorists" are entrenched at a depth of 4.5 kilometers (2.7 miles) to rescue the pilot.
   
Syria’s government refers to all rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad as terrorists.
   
The statement added that the rescued pilot is in "good health."
   
Russian officials have confirmed the rescue operation.
   
The other pilot of the Su-24 jet downed Tuesday by Turkey was reported dead and his body captured by Syrian rebels in an area known as the Turkmen Mountain in Syria’s Latakia province.
   
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the downing of a Russian warplane "has further aggravated the situation in Syria."
   
Merkel told lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday that "we have to do everything now to avoid a further escalation."
   
Merkel says she had spoken to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a telephone call Tuesday.
   
She adds that only a long-term political solution will end the conflict in Syria. She says "there is no other way that will bring us closer to a lasting solution
 
Russian President Vladimir Putin says a second pilot from a Russian warplane that was shot down by Turkey near the Syrian border has been rescued.
   
Putin was speaking in televised comments on Wednesday after Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian news agencies that the man was rescued in a 12-hour operation which ended in the early hours on Wednesday and is now "safe and sound" at Russia’s air base in the government-controlled area in Syria.
   
The other pilot of the Su-24 jet was reported dead.
 
Russia’s defense minister says that Moscow will send its news anti-aircraft missiles to Syria following Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane on Tuesday.
   
Russian news agencies on Wednesday quoted Sergei Shoigu as saying that the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems would be sent to the Hemeimeem air base in the government-controlled area which Moscow uses for its Air Force sorties.
   
S-400s were first put on active combat duty in Russia in 2007.
   
Shoigu’s statement comes a day after Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 on mission near the Syria border. One of the pilots was killed by groundfire as he parachuted from his crippled plane, the Russian general staff said.
  
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country does not wish to escalate tensions with Russia over the downing of the plane.
  
Speaking at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in Istanbul, Erdogan said Wednesday that Turkey favors "peace, dialogue and diplomacy."
   
Erdogan however defended his country’s move to shoot down the plane saying "no one should expect Turkey to stay silent to border violations or the violation of its rights."
   
Turkey said the Russian warplane was shot down on Tuesday after it ignored repeated warnings and crossed into its airspace from Syria.
   
Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced what he called a "stab in the back" and warned of "significant consequences."

A Syria watchdog says a Russian military pilot whose plane was shot down by Turkey has arrived at a Russian air base in Latakia province after being rescued by the Syrian army.
   
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says a Syrian army commando unit staged a rescue operation for the pilot after pinpointing his location. It said the pilot is alive and arrived Wednesday morning at the Hemeimeem air base, near the city of Latakia. No other details were immediately available.
   
Syrian TV only quoted Russia’s ambassador to France as saying the pilot is in the hands of the Syrian army.
   
The Russian warplane was shot down by Turkey Tuesday. A second pilot was killed.
  
Russia’s ambassador to France says a Russian military pilot shot down over Turkey is in the hands of the Syrian army.
   
Ambassador Alexander Orlov said on Europe-1 radio Wednesday that one of the pilots was wounded, then killed on the ground by "jihadists."
   
He says the other "managed to escape and be rescued by the Syrian army." He didn’t elaborate.
   
Orlov denied Turkish government statements that the Russian plane had been warned repeatedly about an airspace violation before shooting it down plane.
   
Orlov accused Turkey of being an "accomplice" of Islamic State extremists and playing an ambiguous role in Syria’s civil war.
   
However he played down concerns of escalation of violence among the international players involved in Syria.

(Copyright (c) 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)