Russia orders warplanes in Syria to fly higher after jet shot down

MOSCOW, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Russia has ordered its warplanes in Syria to fly higher to avoid being shot down by shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles after one of its jets was shot out of the sky at the weekend, the Izvestia daily reported on Monday.

Syrian rebels downed the Russian SU-25 plane on Saturday in Idlib Province. The defense ministry said the pilot ejected, fought with rebels on the ground, then blew himself up with a grenade when they got close to him.

Izvestia, citing the Russian Defence Ministry, said a decision had been taken that such planes would in future only fly above 5,000 meters (16,400 ft) to keep them safe.

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Syrian rebels down Russian plane, kill pilot
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Syrian rebels down Russian plane, kill pilot
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, shows a Rebel fighter taking a picture of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in the the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo. Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria's northwest Idlib province and captured its pilot, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, shows rebel fighters taking a picture at the site of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in Syria's northwest province of Idlib. Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria's northwest Idlib province and captured its pilot, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [in Syria's northwest province of Idlib.] instead of [near the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo.]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, shows smoke billowing from the site of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in Syria's northwest province of Idlib. Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria's northwest Idlib province and captured its pilot, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [in Syria's northwest province of Idlib.] instead of [near the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo.]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, shows smoke billowing from the site of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in the the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo. Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria's northwest Idlib province and captured its pilot, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, shows smoke billowing from the site of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in Syria's northwest province of Idlib. Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria's northwest Idlib province and captured its pilot, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [in Syria's northwest province of Idlib.] instead of [near the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo.]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, shows smoke billowing from the site of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in Syria's northwest province of Idlib. Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria's northwest Idlib province and captured its pilot, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [in Syria's northwest province of Idlib.] instead of [near the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo.]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, shows smoke billowing from the site of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in the the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo. Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria's northwest Idlib province and captured its pilot, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, shows rebel fighters taking a picture at the site of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in Syria's northwest province of Idlib. Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria's northwest Idlib province and captured its pilot, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [in Syria's northwest province of Idlib.] instead of [near the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo.]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, shows smoke billowing from the site of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in Syria's northwest province of Idlib. Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria's northwest Idlib province and captured its pilot, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [in Syria's northwest province of Idlib.] instead of [near the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo.]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, shows smoke billowing from the site of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in Syria's northwest province of Idlib. Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria's northwest Idlib province and captured its pilot, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [in Syria's northwest province of Idlib.] instead of [near the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo.]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, shows smoke billowing from the site of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in Syria's northwest province of Idlib. Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria's northwest Idlib province and captured its pilot, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [in Syria's northwest province of Idlib.] instead of [near the Syrian city of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo.]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
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It said that such a policy had previously been in force, but that the SU-25s had for some reason started flying at lower altitudes in recent days.

The Kremlin said that shoulder-launched missiles obtained by rebels now posed a threat to all planes operating in Syria, but that it was too early to say who had supplied the weapons system used to shoot down the Russian SU-25.

"It's extremely worrying that shoulder-launched surface-to air missiles are in the hands of the terrorists," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

"It's a huge danger for all governments."

Peskov did not signal wider changes in Russia's policy in Syria where Moscow has been supporting President Bashar al-Assad's army for more than two years.

He said that Russia had enough firepower left in Syria to deliver "crushing blows" to rebel forces as and when needed.

'HERO OF RUSSIA'

The Russian Defence Ministry named the downed pilot as Major Roman Filipov and said he had been posthumously awarded with a Hero of Russia decoration.

It said he had fought to his last breath after ejecting and parachuting to the ground where rebels had attacked him.

"Major Roman Filipov fought an unequal battle with his service weapon until the last minute of his life," the ministry said in a statement.

"When surrounded by the terrorists and heavily wounded, the Russian officer blew himself up with a grenade when the militants got within several dozen meters of him."

Russian media have reported that Syrian and possibly Russian special forces are operating in the area where he was killed to try to retrieve his body, along with fragments of the projectile that struck his plane, to try to work out who supplied it to the rebels.

"The pilot died heroically," said Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman. "We are proud of our heroes." (Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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