A Russian pilot whose plane was shot down by Turkey on Tuesday is alive and safe at a Russian base in Syria, Vladimir Putin says. Russia says the man was rescued from Syrian rebels during a 12-hour overnight operation involving Syrian and Russian forces. "I understand he is already back at base, at the aerodrome. He and all those who participated in this operation, including the rescue mission, will receive state awards," Putin said, per the Telegraph. The other pilot was apparently killed by rebel forces while trying to parachute to safety. A Russian marine was killed during an earlier rescue operation. In other developments:
- Russia's ambassador to France says one pilot who parachuted out of the Su-24 warplane was killed by "jihadists" in northern Syria, while the other was rescued after managing to escape, reports the AP. He denied that Turkey had warned about an airspace violation, echoing Putin's comment on Tuesday that the attack was a "stab in the back" and Turkish military officials are "accomplices of terrorists."
- Russia appears ready to hit back hard to prevent any repeat of Tuesday's incident. Military officials say a vessel with an air defense system will be deployed in the Mediterranean to strike "any targets representing a potential danger," and bombers will now be accompanied by fighter jets, the BBC reports.
- Turkish and Russian officials have given conflicting accounts of the alleged violation of Turkish airspace, with Moscow insisting the plane never crossed the border and Ankara saying the downed Su-24 and another warplane spent 17 seconds over its territory, reports Reuters.
- Russian authorities say a helicopter involved in a rescue operation Tuesday was "destroyed by mortar fire conducted from the territory controlled by illegal, armed groups" after it was hit by small-arms fire and made an emergency landing in neutral territory, CNN reports. They say a "naval infantryman serving under contract" was killed in that incident but the rest of the crew was safely evacuated, per the BBC.
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