In a press call on Wednesday morning, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Turkey’s decision to shoot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday seemed like a “planned provocation.”
“We have serious doubts it was an accident and prepared footage of the jet downing suggest the opposite,” Lavrov said. “It all looks like a planned provocation.”
“We’re not going to wage a war against Turkey. … But we will seriously reconsider our agreements with the Turkish government,” he added, according to a translation provided by state-owned Russian news agency Sputnik International and corroborated by The Associated Press.
“Our attitude to the Turkish people hasn’t changed,” Lavrov continued. “We only have questions about the Turkish leadership.”
Lavrov was due to visit Turkey on Wednesday, but he canceled his trip following the incident. Still, he noted that Moscow is “not avoiding contacts with Ankara — my phone conversation with the Turkish foreign minister is a proof” of that.
Lavrov spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday, according to Reuters. But there are conflicting reports over whether Lavrov had agreed to meet his Turkish counterpart.
Turkey claims the plane was in Turkish airspace and had been warned repeatedly before it was shot down by Turkish F-16 jets. But Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the plane was attacked by a Turkish missile while flying in Syrian airspace, roughly one mile from the Turkish border.
“Our pilots didn’t threaten Turkey,” Putin
said from theRussian Black Sea resort of Sochi before a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah. “This is obvious.”
“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,” Putin continued. “And now we get stabbed in our back and our planes, which are fighting terrorism, are struck.”
He added: “Today’s tragic event will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations.”
Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Washington, DC-based think tank Foundation for Defence of Democracies, told Business Insider that the bellicose rhetoric coming from Russia was to be expected and will most likely continue — but it is unlikely that it will be followed up by any overt, aggressive retaliation.
“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 on Tuesday.
But Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian security affairs and professor of global affairs at New York University, wrote on his blog on Tuesday that “some kind of retaliation” could be expected.
“We can expect some kind of retaliation on the political-economic front (maybe stopping Turkish airliners coming to Russian airports?) and maybe also some unloading of additional serious ordinance on Turkish-backed elements in Syria.”
Galeotti’s latter prediction may be panning out already: On Wednesday morning, Russia b
egan bombarding Syrian rebels — including Turkmen insurgents with ethnic ties to Turkey — in Syria’s Latakia province, ignoring demands made by Turkey over the past week to end its military operations close to the Turkish border.
The move is sure to exacerbate tensions with Turkey and further complicate an already-muddled military situation in Syria.
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