Russia is accusing Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his family of benefiting from illegal oil smuggling from Islamic State-held territory in Syria and Iraq.
The defense ministry in Moscow says it has proof of the activity, according to Reuters.
Moscow and Ankara have been locked in a war of words since last week when a Turkish air force jet shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border, the most serious incident between Russia and a NATO state in half a century.
Erdogan responded by saying no one had the right to “slander” Turkey by accusing it of buying oil from Islamic State, and that he would stand down if such allegations were proven to be true. But speaking during a visit to Qatar, he also said he did not want relations with Moscow to worsen further.
At a briefing in Moscow, defense ministry officials displayed satellite images which they said showed columns of tanker trucks loading with oil at installations controlled by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and then crossing the border into neighboring Turkey.
The officials did not specify what direct evidence they had of the involvement of Erdogan and his family, an allegation that the Turkish president has vehemently denied.
“Turkey is the main consumer of the oil stolen from its rightful owners, Syria and Iraq. According to information we’ve received, the senior political leadership of the country — President Erdogan and his family — are involved in this criminal business,” said Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov.
“Maybe I’m being too blunt, but one can only entrust control over this thieving business to one’s closest associates.”
Erdogan last week denied that Turkey procures oil from anything other than legitimate sources.
The United States said it rejected the premise that the Turkish government was in league with the militants to smuggle oil.
“We frankly see no evidence, none, to support such an accusation,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
Erdogan has said Ankara is taking steps to prevent fuel smuggling and he challenged anyone who accused his government of collaborating with Islamic State to prove their allegations.
On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama said Turkey had made progress in sealing its border with Syria but Islamic State was still exploiting gaps to bring in foreign fighters and sell oil.
The Russian defense ministry also alleged that the same criminal networks which were smuggling oil into Turkey were also supplying weapons, equipment and training to Islamic State and other Islamist groups.
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