Conflicting Claims Over Downed Russian Warplane
The incident continues to strain relations between Moscow and Ankara.
Updated on November 25 at 11:30 a.m. ET
A day after the Turkish military shot down a Russian fighter jet, the two sides traded claims about what happened in the skies over Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that his forces were in their right to fire at the Russian aircraft, which he said had violated the country’s airspace when it approached the border with Syria. Erdogan said there was no Islamic State presence where the Russia military, which has been bombing extremists in Syria, was flying, according to CNN. “Do not deceive us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that Turkey’s decision to strike the plane was a “planned provocation,” the Associated Press reported. The pilot who survived the downing said Wednesday that the aircraft did not receive any warnings and was flying inside Syria when it was shot down, the BBC reported. The second pilot was killed by Syrian rebels as he parachuted to the ground.
Hours after the crash, Russian President Vladimir Putin called it “a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists.”
Russian officials have denied claims the jet strayed into Turkish airspace. Turkish officials say they didn't know the plane’s country of origin until Moscow announced it was Russian.
The response from both nations to the incident has been swift. Turkey, a NATO member, called for an emergency meeting of the organization, which urged both sides to avoid a military escalation. Lavrov canceled a trip to Ankara for bilateral talks scheduled for Wednesday, and said Moscow would rethink relations with Ankara. Russia’s defense minister Sergey Shoygu said Wednesday that the country would send defense missile systems to its airbase near Latakia, Syria, just south of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Neither country wants to go to war, but the crash further strains relations between Moscow and Ankara in Syria, where Russian forces have bombed Turkish-backed rebel groups fighting against the Assad government. In Russia’s parliament, one lawmaker submitted a bill that criticized those who deny that the killings of Armenians Ottoman Turkish forces in 1915 were a “genocide”—a direct dig at Turkey, which vehemently rejects that description.
In Russia, the AP reported that protesters hurled eggs and stones at the Turkish embassy in Moscow on Wednesday morning, coating the walls and shattering windows.
The Russian warplane, a Sukhoi SU-24, was shot down over Turkey's southernmost tip on Tuesday. The Turkish military said the aircraft ignored 10 warnings to leave. The plane’s two pilots ejected themselves, but came under fire by a Syrian rebel group as they descended. The group told news outlets that both pilots were killed, but on Wednesday, Putin announced that one of the pilots was rescued in a joint, 12-hour operation by Russian and Syrian forces, and is “alive and well” on a Russian base in Syria.
The incident is the first time a Russian or Soviet military aircraft has been shot down by a NATO member since the 1950s.