Russian President Vladimir Putin harshly rebuked Turkey for its downing of a Russian warplane Tuesday morning.
“Today’s loss is linked to a stab in the back delivered to us by accomplices of terrorists,” Putin said Tuesday from the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi before a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah, according to Reuters. “I cannot qualify what happened today as anything else.”
“We established a long time ago that large quantities of oil and oil products from territory captured by Islamic State have been arriving on Turkish territory,” he continued, saying that was how the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had been funding itself.
“And now we get stabbed in our back and our planes, which are fighting terrorism, are struck. This despite the fact that we signed an agreement with our American partners to warn each other about air-to-air incidents and Turkey … announced it was allegedly fighting against terrorism as part of the US coalition.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was due to visit Turkey on Wednesday, but he canceled his trip after the downing of the plane.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has defended Turkey’s decision to down the plane, saying on Tuesday that it was Turkey’s “national duty” to protect the country’s security. He added that Turkey had the right “to take all kinds of measures” to protect its border, the Associated Press reported.
Turkey says the plane was in Turkish airspace and had been warned repeatedly before it was shot down by Turkish F-16 jets. A US military spokesman confirmed to the BBC that Turkey had warned the Russian jet to exit Turkish airspace at least 10 times.
But the Russian leader says the plane was attacked by a Turkish surface-to-air missile while flying in Syrian airspace, roughly a mile from the Turkish border. Putin claims the plane crashed 2 1/2 miles inside Syria.
“Our pilots didn’t threaten Turkey,” Putin said. “This is obvious.”
A Turkmen rebel brigade in Syria said it shot dead the Russian plane’s two occupants, who descended with parachutes, according to Reuters. That claim had not been confirmed. The Turkmen in Syria have close ethnic and historical links to Turkey.
The Turkish military published a radar map demonstrating the reported flight path of the jet it shot down, which Ankara is using as proof that the pilots violated the country’s airspace:
“We have always treated Turkey as not only a close neighbour, but also as a friendly nation,” Putin said. “I don’t know who has an interest in what happened today, but we certainly don’t.”
He added: “Today’s tragic event will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations.”
Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, told Business Insider that this bellicose rhetoric coming from Russia was to be expected and would most likely continue.
“Putin will need to save face and will offer a lot of stern language, but his options are limited if he doesn’t want to start a war with NATO at this moment,” Zilberman said.
“I would be concerned that Russia could take a tit-for-tat approach and down a Turkish fighter jet at some at point in the future, but an incident in 2012 when Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet shows that perhaps cooler heads will prevail, as that incident did not further escalate.”
Russian warplanes have been conducting airstrikes over Syria since late September, sometimes causing tension with Turkey when its planes come too close to the Turkish border.
In early October, Turkey complained that at least one Russian warplane had violated Turkish airspace and that another Russian jet had locked its targeting radar on Turkish planes, The Wall Street Journal reported. It led US Secretary of State John Kerry to warn Russia about the threat of escalation.
And last week, Turkey summoned Russian ambassador Andrey G. Karlov and called for an immediate end to Russia’s military operation close to the Turkish border. Turkey accused Russia of bombing villages in northern Syria inhabited by Syrian Turkmen.
NATO has called an “extraordinary meeting” after the incident. Turkey is part of NATO, whose member nations are bound by the treaty to defend one another from aggression.
Here is a video of the plane being shot down:
A US official told The Daily Beast that the coalition had received no warning from Turkey before it downed the Russian plane. “They just did it,” the official said.
A White House spokesman declined to comment further. The Pentagon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Turkey has reportedly summoned a Russian envoy to Ankara to discuss the incident.
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