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Russian Pilot Rescued by Syrian Army   11/25 06:22

   DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- A Russian military pilot whose plane was shot down 
by Turkey and crashed in Syria arrived on Wednesday at an air base in Latakia 
province after being rescued by a Syrian army commando unit, Syrian and Russian 
officials said.

   Russian 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.

   Turkey shot down the Russian warplane on Tuesday, saying it ignored repeated 
warnings after crossing into its airspace from Syria. One of the two pilots was 
killed and captured by Syrian rebels who said they were searching for the 
other. The incident inflamed tensions between Turkey and Russia, and Russian 
President Vladimir Putin warned of "significant consequences."

   A statement from the Syrian armed forces on Wednesday said a special unit 
carried out overnight a "qualitative" operation with the Russian forces and 
rescued one of the two pilots.

   Russian President Vladimir Putin also confirmed a second pilot has been 

   In a statement carried by Syria's official news agency SANA, the army said 
the Syrian and Russian forces penetrated into the areas where "terrorists" are 
entrenched at a depth of 4.5 kilometers and rescued the pilot. It said he is in 
"good health."

   Russia's ambassador to France also said that the second pilot is in the 
hands of the Syrian army. Ambassador Alexander Orlov said on Europe-1 radio 
that one of the pilots was wounded, then killed on the ground by "jihadists."

   He said the other "managed to escape and be rescued by the Syrian army." He 
didn't elaborate.

   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.

   Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that his country does 
not wish to escalate tensions with Russia over the downing of the plane.

   Speaking at an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in 
Istanbul, Erdogan said 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 shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday that it said ignored repeated 
warnings and crossed into its airspace from Syria.


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