A Russian pilot blew himself up after his plane was shot down and he was confronted by Syrian rebels, the Russian defence ministry has confirmed.
Major Roman Filipov has been posthumously awarded with a Hero of Russia decoration after his SU-25 jet was downed by a shoulder-launched missile on Saturday.
He ejected and fought with rebels on the ground in before blowing himself up with a grenade when they closed in on him.
The ministry said he had fought to his last breath after ejecting and parachuting to the ground where rebels had attacked him in Idlib Province.
“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 metres of him.”
Russian media has reported 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 Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman. “We are proud of our heroes.”
Russia has now reportedly ordered its warplanes in Syria to fly higher to avoid being shot down by shoulder-launched missiles.
The Russian ministry says its aircraft must fly above 5,000 metres (16,400ft), and said this altitude had been agreed previously but the SU-25s had been flying lower in recent days, according to the Russian Izvestia newspaper.