Moscow (AFP) - The Russian defence ministry has criticised an independent news website for publishing the average salaries of military officers after a Russian pilot's plane was downed over Syria.
Saint Petersburg's respected news website Fontanka revealed late Monday that with basic information anyone can access the personal files of servicemen on the ministry's online database.
"A pilot with the title of major receives on average a little over 100,00 rubles ($1,750) after taxes," the media outlet said.
It suggested that Major Roman Filipov -- who was killed on Saturday in fighting with Islamists after his warplane was downed in northwest Syria -- received as much.
Russia hailed Filipov as a national hero after he reportedly parachuted out of his Su-25 warplane into a Syrian rebel stronghold and killed himself with a hand grenade before he could be captured by Islamists.
Fontanka said the database showed that Russian pilots can also receive bonuses of 140,000 rubles ($2,450).
The website said that while the ministry "probably meant well", its database posed a potential danger for Russian soldiers.
The defence ministry lashed out against the Fontanka report, titled "The defence ministry has disclosed the salaries of servicemen to possible enemies", as lacking "an elementary understanding of decency and journalistic ethics."
"We are sure that law enforcement agencies will give their appraisal of what happened in accordance with Russian law," the ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
Fontanka's chief editor Alexander Gorshkov defended the report in an interview with Echo of Moscow radio.
"This is not a question of journalistic ethics," he said.
"It is a question of the safety of our servicemen fulfilling their duty in different places around the world."
If a serviceman is taken prisoner, Gorshkov said, all his captors need to know is his date of birth in order to access his files on the defence ministry's website.
"If I were them, I would not be talking about ethics but would close this loophole as fast as possible," he said.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a powerful jihadist-dominated alliance in Syria, said it shot down the Russian plane in retaliation for a ferocious bombing campaign by Moscow's warplanes over Idlib.