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Reacting to Turkey shooting down a Russian plane, President Vladimir Putin said that “Turkey is behaving as if Russia shot down the plane’. He also added that the action would have serious consequences for Russia-Turkey relations. He claimed that large amounts of oil from militants in Syria go to Turkey and that neither Russian pilots nor their jets threatened the territory of Turkey.
He was quoted saying ahead of his meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Sochi: “This event is beyond the normal framework of fighting against terrorism. Of course our military is doing heroic work against terrorism… But the loss today is a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists. I can’t describe it in any other way. Our aircraft was downed over the territory of Syria, using air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16. It fell on the Syrian territory 4km from Turkey.”
Meanwhile, Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday that the country had the right to respond if its airspace is violated despite repeated warnings, speaking after a Russian warplane was shot down by Turkish jets along the country’s Syria border. In a speech in the capital Ankara, Davutoglu said the world should know that Turkey would do “whatever is necessary” to guarantee the country’s security. Turkey informed the United States that it shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday after it violated Turkish airspace but U.S. forces were not involved in the incident, a U.S. defense official said, declining further comment.
It appeared to be the first time a NATO member’s armed forces have downed a Russian or Soviet warplane since the 1950s. NATO member Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border today, threatening a major spike in tensions between two key protagonists in the four-year Syria civil war.
With a major diplomatic crisis looming between two states on opposing sides in the Syria conflict, Russia insisted the jet was all the time inside Syrian airspace and condemned the downing as “a very serious incident”. Turkish media said one pilot had been captured by rebel forces in Syria after both ejected by parachute while Syrian opposition sources said one was dead and another missing.
The fighter jet exploded in mid-air, crashing in a fireball onto a mountain on the Syrian side of the border, television pictures showed. The presence of aircraft from Russia, the United States, France, Turkey and a clutch of Gulf states in Syrian skies had long raised fears of an incident that could quickly escalate into a major diplomatic and military crisis. “A Russian Su-24 plane was downed under the rules of engagement because it violated Turkish airspace despite the warnings,” the Turkish presidency said. Turkey has summoned the Russian envoy to Ankara over the incident, which comes on the eve of a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the country.
Russia confirmed that one of its planes had been downed at an altitude of 6,000 metres but said it appeared to have been shot down from the ground. “Presumably as a result of firing from the ground, an Su-24 plane of the Russian forces crashed in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Russian news agencies quoted the defence ministry as saying. “It is a very serious incident,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. The Turkish army said that the downing took place over the Yayladagi district of Turkey’s Hatay province on the border with Syria. “The plane violated Turkish air space five times in 10 minutes despite warnings,” the army said in a statement, adding it was shot down by at 0724 GMT “according to the rules of engagement”.
At Ankara’s request, NATO allies will hold an “extraordinary” meeting at 1600 GMT to discuss the incident, an alliance official said. “NATO is monitoring the situation closely. We are in contact with Turkish authorities.”
With inputs from Reuters