A Russian warplane has been shot down by Turkish F-16 fighter jets after it violated Turkish air space. The aircraft was reportedly flying close to the Syrian border and repeatedly ignored warnings, dw.de reports.
Following initial reports on Tuesday that the identity of the warplane was unknown, Turkish presidential sources said shortly after the incident that the aircraft was Russian-made.
“A Russian Su-24 plane was downed under the rules of engagement because it violated the Turkish air space despite the warnings,” Turkey’s presidency said.
Russia’s defense ministry denied claims, however, that the fighter jet had violated Turkish airspace. According to Russian media reports, the warplane had been on a bombing mission in Syria and crashed after it came under artillery fire from the ground.
“We are looking into the circumstances of the crash of the Russian jet. The Ministry of Defense would like to stress that the plane was over the Syrian territory throughout the flight,” Moscow said in a statement.
The Su-24 bomber jet was in Syrian airspace at the altitude 6,000 meters, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The pilots were reportedly able to parachute out of the jet before it crashed, sputniknews.com also reports.
“The plane was located at an altitude of 6,000 meters [approximately 19,600 feet]. The fate of the pilots is being determined. According to the preliminary data, the pilots were able to eject.
Putin: Downing of Russian jet over Syria stab in the back by terrorist accomplices
Turkey backstabbed Russia by downing the Russian warplane and acted as accomplices of the terrorists, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, according to rt.com.
“This incident stands out against the usual fight against terrorism. Our troops are fighting heroically against terrorists, risking their lives. But the loss we suffered today came from a stab in the back delivered by accomplices of the terrorists,” Putin said.
Putin said the plane was hit by a Turkish warplane as it was travelling at an altitude of 6000 meters about a kilometre from the Turkish border. It was hit by an air-to-air missile launched by a Turkish F-16 jet. The crash site is four kilometres from the border. The plane posed no threat to Turkish national security, he stressed.
Putin said the plane was targeting terrorist targets in the Latakia province of Syria, many of whom came from Russia.
“IS has big money, hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, from selling oil. In addition they are protected by the military of an entire nation. One can understand why they are acting so boldly and blatantly. Why they kill people in such atrocious ways. Why they commit terrorist acts across the world, including in the heart of Europe,” the Russian leader said.
The downing of the Russian warplane happened despite Russia signing an agreement with the US to prevent such incidents in Syria, Putin stressed. Turkey claims to be part of the US-led coalition fighting against IS in Syria, he added.
The incident will have grave consequences for Russia’s relations with Turkey, Putin warned.
One of the two pilots of the downed Russian warplane was reported killed by a rebel group as he was parachuting down on the ground after ejecting from the plane. The fate of the second pilot remains unknown.
The circumstances of the plane’s crash are under investigation. The Russian Ministry of Defense notes that during the flight the plane stayed strictly within Syrian airspace and the flight was logged,” the statement from the ministry reads.
Video footage released by private Turkish broadcaster Haberturk TV on Tuesday showed the jet plummeting in flames into a woodland area – known to Turks as “Turkmen Mountain” – with a long plume of smoke behind it, dw.de further informs.
In separate footage, published by Turkey Anadolu Agency, two pilots were seen parachuting out of the aircraft shortly before it crashed.
Broadcaster CNN Turk reported that Turkman seized one of the pilots near to the Syrian border and that a search was underway for the second.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s office said in a statement that the Turkish leader had spoken with the country’s military chief and foreign ministry about the incident and that Davutoglu would start “initiatives” within NATO and the United Nations (UN).
Lavrov cancels Turkey visit
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has cancelled his visit to Istanbul, due on Wednesday, after a Russian Su-24 jet was downed over Syria by a Turkish F-16 fighter, rt.com informs.
“A decision has been made to cancel the meeting at the level of Russian and Turkish foreign ministers, which was planned to be held tomorrow in Istanbul,” Lavrov told reporters.
The minister also pointed out the increasing level of the terror threat in Turkey, which is “not lower than in Egypt.” Lavrov said the ministry recommends Russians to refrain from visiting Turkey.
“It’s necessary to emphasize that the terror threats with their roots in Turkey have been aggravated. And that’s true even if we don’t take into account what happened today,” Lavrov said. “We estimate the threats to be no less than in Egypt.”
“So because of that we, of course, do not recommend our citizens to visit the Turkish Republic for tourism or any other purposes at this moment,” he added.
Russian state tourism agency Rostourism has recommended suspending sales of tour packages to Turkey. One of the biggest Russian tour operators Natalie tours has already announced temporary suspension of sales of trips to Turkey.