Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has described Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter jet conducting airstrikes against terrorists in Syria at the Turkey-Syria border as a “stab in the back.”
“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,” Putin said ahead of his meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Sochi on Tuesday.
Putin said the Russian aircraft was downed over the territory of Syria with an air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16, adding that it fell on the Syrian territory 4km from Turkey.
“Neither our pilots nor our jet threatened the territory of Turkey. This is obvious. They are fighting terrorists in the northern areas around Latakia, where militants are located,” the Russian president said.
Putin said the downing of the Russian plane will have “serious consequences” for Moscow-Ankara ties.
“I don’t know who was interested in what happened today, certainly not us. And instead of immediately getting in contact with us, as far as we know, the Turkish side immediately turned to their partners from NATO to discuss this incident, as if we shot down their plane and not they ours,” the Russian president said.
An act of sacrifice: Davutoglu
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a speech in Ankara that his country has the right to respond if its airspace is violated despite repeated warnings, adding that Turkey would do “whatever is necessary” to guarantee its security.
“We want the international community to know that we are ready for any kind of sacrifice when the security and life of our citizens and our border security are concerned. The downing of a jet that had violated Turkish airspace today has to be seen in this context as well.”
“We do not adopt an approach that impeaches on the sovereignty of any country. But the world needs to know that it is our international right and our national duty to take measures against anybody who violates our borders on the land and in the air, in spite of our many warnings.”
NATO extraordinary meeting
The ambassadors of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are due to hold an “extraordinary” meeting at the request of Turkey, following the country’s downing of the Russian warplane.
“At the request of Turkey, the North Atlantic Council will hold an extraordinary meeting at (1600 GMT),” a NATO official, whose name was not mentioned in the reports, said on Tuesday.
The source added that the meeting is meant for Ankara to inform NATO allies about the downing of the Russian aircraft. “NATO is monitoring the situation closely. We are in close contact with Turkish authorities,” the official said.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the plane downed on Tuesday was a Russian Su-24, adding that it can prove the aircraft was over Syria during its entire flight. This is while the Turkish military said the plane was warned “ten times” before it was shot down for violating Turkish airspace.
“Presumably as a result of firing from the ground, a Su-24 plane of the Russian forces crashed in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Russian news agencies quoted the ministry as saying, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov describing the shooting down as “a very serious incident.”
Turkish officials say two warplanes approached the country’s border and were warned before one of them was shot down.
“A Russian Su-24 plane was downed under the rules of engagement because it violated Turkish airspace despite the warnings,” the Turkish presidency said.
Turkish media reports said militants in Syria have captured one of the pilots after both of them left the plane by parachute. Syrian opposition sources said one pilot is dead and another missing.
A video uploaded by the militants in Syria on social media purportedly shows a Russian pilot who appears to be lifeless or incapacitated on the ground. An official from the group told Reuters that the man was dead.
Footage broadcast by Turkey’s Dogan news agency purportedly showed Russian helicopters flying over Syrian territory to search for the lost pilots.
Later on Tuesday, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the militants in Syria have shot at a Russian helicopter, forcing it to make an emergency landing in Latakia Province.
A militant group in possession of US Tow missiles has claimed its members hit the helicopter with an anti-tank missile.
Ankara has, meanwhile, summoned the Russian ambassador to Turkey over the incident, ahead of a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the country.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also summoned representatives from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to brief them on the downing of a Russian fighter jet, a Turkish official said.
According to the Turkish embassy in Moscow, the Russian Defense Ministry has also called in the Turkish military attache in the country.
The incident comes as Moscow is involved in an aerial military campaign against Takfiri terrorists in Syria, which started on September 30 upon a request by the government in Damascus.
Relations between Russia and NATO have deteriorated over the past months as the military alliance and its Western allies accuse the Kremlin of supporting pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine, an accusation that Kremlin categorically rejects.