One of the pilots of the Russian jet that was shot down by Turkey survived and is thought to be on his way back to his base, a diplomat has said.
Russia’s ambassador to France said the pilot – one of two in the jet brought down on Tuesday near the border with Syria – was picked up by the Syrian army.
Alexandre Orlov told Europe 1 radio: “One on board was wounded when he parachuted down and killed in a savage way on the ground by the jihadists in the area and the other managed to escape and, according to the latest information, has been picked up by the Syrian army and should be taken to the Russian airforce base.”
A Turkish official claimed the two pilots are still alive and the country is working to secure their release from Syrian rebels.
According to a US official, the jet was hit inside Syrian airspace after briefly entering Turkish airspace, according to reports.
The unnamed official told the Reuters news agency that the assessment was based on detection of the heat signature of the jet.
Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the need to contain escalating tensions with Russia during a telephone call on Tuesday night.
The incident has triggered a major diplomatic confrontation from which both sides are apparently unwilling to back down.
Turkish officials said two Russian planes approached the Turkish border and were warned before one of them was shot down, adding their information shows Turkish airspace was repeatedly violated.
NATO said the incursion into Turkish airspace lasted 17 seconds, but Moscow claims its plane was over Syria when it was hit.
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin said the jet “did not in any way threaten Turkey” and the incident will have “serious consequences” for relations between the two countries.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday the incident could result in cancelling some important joint projects and that Turkish companies could lose Russian market share.
But, while speaking to reporters, the Russian ambassador to France added that Russia would be prepared to “create a joint staff” to fight the Islamic State in which Moscow would work with France, the United States and even Turkey.
The downing of the jet is the first time a NATO member’s armed forces have shot down a Russian or Soviet military aircraft since the 1950s.