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Walid Muallem: Killing of Russian pilot by militants amounts to war crime

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York, October 2, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem says the killing of a Russian pilot by the militants in Syria “was no less than a war crime.”

On Tuesday, the Turkish military shot down a Russian Su-24M Fencer aircraft with two pilots aboard. Ankara claimed the fighter jet had violated the Turkish airspace.

One of the pilots has been rescued with the help of the Syrian army and is currently at a Russian base in western Syria. The Russian Defense Ministry has officially reported the death of the other pilot, who “was wounded when he parachuted down and killed in a savage way on the ground” by the militants.

The Syrian foreign minister said the Turkish government supports the “terrorists, who … opened fire at the pilot as he was parachuting down.”

“It was no less than a war crime.”

“We are glad that the joint Russian-Syrian military operation resulted in [the] rescue of the second pilot,” Muallem said.

He made the remarks after a meeting with Speaker of the Russian Parliament Sergey Naryshkin in the Russian capital, Moscow, on Wednesday.

The top Syrian diplomat expressed regret over such actions by the terrorists in Syria.

An image grab made from a video shows a burning Russian fighter jet coming down after being shot near the Turkish-Syrian border, in Turkey’s Hatay Province, November 24, 2015. (AFP photo)

Violating Syria’s sovereignty

Russia started airstrikes against the positions of the Takfiri Daesh terrorists and other militant groups in Syria on September 30, based on a request from the Syrian government. Turkey, which contributes to the US-led coalition that conducts airstrikes against purported positions of Daesh, has on several occasions accused Russia of violating its airspace.

“The effort to destroy the forces of Islamic State (Daesh) and other terrorist groups offended Turkey. That is why they aggressively violated Syria’s sovereignty and attacked the Su-24 in its airspace,” said the Syrian foreign minister.

Muallem also commented on the ineffectiveness of the US-led airstrikes.

“In 18 months the US and its allies have conducted around 6,000 strikes against the terrorists, but they failed to undermine IS (Daesh) capabilities. On the contrary, they (Daesh) became stronger.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, commenting on the downing of the Russian plane, said on Tuesday it was a “stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists.”

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