Date
23 May 2017
Syrian Turkmen fighters are seen with an anti-aircraft artillery weapon near the northern Syrian village of Yamadi. Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border on Tuesday saying it had repeatedly violated its air space. Photo: Reuters
Syrian Turkmen fighters are seen with an anti-aircraft artillery weapon near the northern Syrian village of Yamadi. Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border on Tuesday saying it had repeatedly violated its air space. Photo: Reuters

Tensions as Turkey downs Russian fighter jet near Syria border

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border on Tuesday for alleged violation of Turkish air space, heightening tensions in the already volatile region. 

Rejecting accusations that the jet had strayed into Turkey, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of “serious consequences” for what he termed a stab in the back, Reuters reported.

“We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today,” Putin was quoted as saying after one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a NATO member country and Russia for half a century.

In a letter to the UN Security Council, Turkey said it had shot down the jet while in Turkish air space.

Along with a second plane, the aircraft had flown more than a mile into Turkey for 17 seconds, despite being warned 10 times in five minutes while approaching to change direction, the letter said.

“Nobody should doubt that we made our best efforts to avoid this latest incident. But everyone should respect the right of Turkey to defend its borders,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.

Russia’s defense ministry said one of its Su-24 fighter jets had been downed in Syria and that “for the entire duration of the flight, the aircraft was exclusively over Syrian territory”.

Following the incident, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov canceled a visit to Turkey due on Wednesday, while the defense ministry in Moscow said it was preparing measures to respond to such incidents.

US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande, meeting in Washington, urged against an escalation, while NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance stood in solidarity with Turkey.

Footage from private Turkish broadcaster Haberturk TV showed the warplane going down in flames as it crashed in a wooded part of an area known as “Turkmen Mountain”.

Separate footage from Turkey’s Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed.

A deputy commander of rebel Turkmen forces in Syria said his men shot both pilots dead as they came down. 

A senior Turkish official said at least one of the pilots could still be alive, and that the government is trying to verify the information.

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