Turkey shot down Russian warplane near Syria border for violation of Turkish airspace

November 24, 2015 1:02 pm

 A Russian warplane goes down in ’s northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak near Turkeys border. Photo / Getty Images

shot down a Russian warplane Tuesday, claiming it had
violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings. denied
that the plane crossed the Syrian border into Turkish skies.
“We
are looking into the circumstances of the crash of the Russian jet,”
Russia’s Defense Ministry said. “The Ministry of Defense would like to
stress that the plane was over the Syrian territory throughout the
flight.”
Russia said the Su-24 was downed by artillery fire, but
Turkey claimed that its F-16s fired on the Russian plane after it
ignored several warnings. The ministry said the pilots parachuted but
added that Moscow had no further contact with them.
Video footage
of the incident showed a warplane on fire before crashing on a hill and
two crew members apparently parachuting safely.
Jahed Ahmad, a
spokesman the 10th Coast Division, an insurgent group in Syria, said its
forces fired at the Russian pilots as they descended.

One was dead when he reached the ground, Ahmad told The Associated Press.
The group released a video showing gunmen standing around a blond man in aviator gear whose face was bruised and appeared dead.
The fate of the second pilot was unknown.

The warplane catches on fire after being shot. Photo / Getty Images
The warplane catches on fire after being shot. Photo / Getty Images

The
North Atlantic Council, NATO’s governing body, called a meeting
requested by Turkey, an alliance member. “The aim of this extraordinary
NAC meeting is for Turkey to inform allies about the downing of a
Russian airplane,” said Carmen Romero, NATO’s deputy spokesperson.
Turkey’s
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said
nothing about the incident at a ceremony approving the list a new
cabinet members.
Natasha Kuhrt, lecturer in International Peace
and Security at King’s College London, said Russian television reports
“have mainly been blaming the anti-Assad rebels inside Syria, and not
mentioning Turkey at all. The general thrust is to try to play down this
incident.”
“Relations have been very strained between Russia and
Turkey of late so Moscow will be trying its utmost to contain the
damage this might cause,” she said.
Turkey’s private Dogan news
agency said two Russian helicopters, flying low over the Turkmen
Bayirbucak region, searched for the two pilots.
“This isn’t an
action against any specific country. Our F-16s took the necessary steps
to defend Turkey’s sovereign territory,” a Turkish official said in an
email. The official cannot be named because of government rules that bar
civil servants from speaking to journalists without authorization.
The
official said the Russian plane was first warned that it was within 15
kilometers (10 miles) of the Turkish border, and the aircraft then
crossed over Turkish territory.

Smoke rises after the crash. Photo / Getty Images
Smoke rises after the crash. Photo / Getty Images
Turkish officials released what they said was the
radar image of the path the Russian plane took, showing it flying across
a stretch of Turkish territory in Turkey’s southern-most tip, in the
region of Yayladag, in Hatay province.
A Turkish military statement said the plane entered Turkish airspace over the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province.
“On
Nov. 24, 2015 at around 09.20 a.m, a plane whose nationality is not
known violated the Turkish airspace despite several warnings (10 times
within five minutes) in the area of Yayladagi, Hatay,” the military said
before the plane’s nationality was confirmed.
“Two F-16 planes
on aerial patrol duty in the area intervened against the plane in
question in accordance with the rules of engagement at 09.24 a.m.”
It said the plane was warned 10 times within the space of five minutes.
“It’s
the kind of thing we’re been warning about,” said Ian Kearns, director
of the European Leadership Network think-tank in London. “And it’s a
direct military engagement between a NATO country and Russia, so I think
it’s a serious incident in anybody’s book.”
Shashank Joshi of
defense think tank the Royal United Services Institute said the large
number of nations in the air over Syria had led to a dangerous and
unpredictable situation.
He said there would intense diplomatic
efforts to defuse the situation, but the combination of crowded
airspace, Russian probing of Turkey’s border and diplomatic between
Moscow and Istanbul created a “real toxic cocktail that can easily erupt
into crisis.”
On Saturday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned
the Russian ambassador demanding that Russia cease operations in Syria
targeting Turkmen villages, saying the Russian actions did not
“constitute a fight against terrorism” but the bombing of civilians.
Ambassador Andrey Karlov was warned during the meeting that the Russian
operations could lead to serious consequences, the ministry said.
Syrian
troops have been on the offensive in the area that is controlled by
several insurgent groups including al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, the Nusra
Front, and the 2nd Coastal Division and the 10th Coast Division that
includes local Turkmen fighters.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the warplane
crashed in the Turkmen Mountains region in the coastal province of
Latakia.
The Turkmen Mountains region has been subjected to a government offensive in recent days under the cover of Russian airstrikes.
Three
Russian journalists working in Latakia province suffered minor injuries
when a missile landed near their car on Tuesday, Russia’s Defense
Ministry said. They were being treated in a military hospital.
Last month, Turkish jets shot down an unidentified drone that it said had violated Turkey’s airspace.
Turkey
changed its rules of engagement a few years ago after Syria shot down a
Turkish plane. According to the new rules, Turkey said it would
consider all “elements” approaching from Syria an enemy threat and would
act accordingly.
Following earlier accusations of Russian
intrusion into Turkish airspace, the U.S. European Command on Nov. 6
deployed six U.S. Air Force F-15 fighters from their base in Britain to
Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to help the NATO-member country secure its
skies.
The European Command said the deployment was “in response
to the government of Turkey’s request for support in securing the
sovereignty of Turkish airspace.”
In October, NATO’s governing
body, the North Atlantic Council, had warned Moscow it was courting
“extreme danger” by sending planes into Turkish air space.

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