Moscow (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 on Saturday, the Izvestia daily reported on Monday.
The reported policy change came after Syrian rebels shot down a Russian SU-25 plane on Saturday in Idlib Province and killed its pilot on the ground after he ejected from the plane.
Izvestia, citing the Russian Defence Ministry, said a decision had been taken that such planes would in future only fly above a ceiling of 5,000 meters (16,404.2 ft) in an effort to keep them safe.
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.
Russian media has cast the pilot shot down on Saturday, named as Major Roman Filipov, as a hero and said he is in line for a posthumous state award.
It has said rebels opened fire on him after he ejected and parachuted to the ground and that he then took them on once he had landed with his pistol before being killed.
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.