How exactly did a Russian pilot make it out of enemy territory alive after his plane was shot down by Turkish jets? He was helped by the commander of foreign operations for Iran's Revolutionary Guards, according to an Iranian news agency. The Fars New Agency—citing a Russian agency, which quotes an unnamed Syrian officer—said on Thursday that "credible information was obtained that a number of special Turkish units had been sent to the scene to take the Russian pilot captive to blackmail Russia later," per the Times of Israel. So Iran's General Qassem Soleimani put forth a plan: He proposed that eight members of Hezbollah's Special Forces and 18 Syrian commandos trained by Iran move in on the ground, with Russia providing "air cover and satellite intelligence," per the agency. Russia agreed.
The team "saved the pilot after infiltrating [about four miles] behind the enemy lines, killing the terrorists operating in there, and destroying their hi-tech equipment," the agency said. Syria's Al-Watan newspaper reported on Thursday that "11 members of an elite unit of the air force intelligence service" and a Russian translator recovered Konstantin Murakhtin two miles behind enemy lines in the Al-Atira region, about eight miles from the border with Turkey, after he was spotted hiding on the ground by a Russian drone, per AFP. "He was spotted thanks to his GPS. It was a race against time because the terrorists were also looking for him," the paper said. Murakhtin injured his leg during the 12-hour operation, but "I feel good in general," he told Russian state media on Wednesday. "I am waiting impatiently to be released by the doctors so I can immediately return to service."