MOSCOW (AP) — Tens of thousands of Russians have attended a mourning ceremony for a Russian pilot who blew himself up to avoid being captured by the militants in Syria who downed his plane.
Maj. Roman Filipov bailed out successfully Saturday from the burning plane over Syria’s northern Idlib province, but was surrounded by al-Qaida-linked militants when he landed. The Russian Defense Ministry said he engaged in a gun battle with the militants and then blew himself up with a hand grenade when they came close.
President Vladimir Putin has posthumously awarded Filipov with the nation’s highest medal, the Hero of Russia.
Filipov’s body has been repatriated to Russia. Over 30,000 people in the southwestern city of Voronezh attended Thursday’s funeral ceremony for the pilot who was married with a four-year old daughter.