Russian Warplane Shot Down By Turkey
A Russian warplane was shot down by Turkey close to the Syrian border recently. The eastern European country said the jet violated its airspace, which is the most serious clash between a NATO country and Russia for around fifty years.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia said the attack took place around 1 kilometer inside Syria. He also warned of “serious consequences” for the incident caused by “the accomplices of terrorists.” Putin added that they will not tolerate crimes like “the one committed today.”
Turkey sent a letter to the UN Security council indicating that the jet was shot down inside Turkish air space. The letter revealed that the plane was inside Turkish territory for 17 seconds even as it was given ten warnings within a five-minute span to change direction.
President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said in a speech that they gave their best efforts in avoiding the latest incident. However, it is necessary for everyone to respect the right of his country to defend its borders. Edrogan added that past incidents were prevented by the “cool-headedness” of Turkey.
Diplomatic representatives of each country were summoned as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia canceled his visit to Turkey. The defense ministry revealed that preparations were made to respond to similar incidents. President Francois Hollande of France and President Barack Obama of the United States made an appeal against escalating the incident. On the other hand, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO said the alliance will continue to support Turkey following the incident.
Footage from Haberturk TV of Turkey showed the Russian warplane going down in flames before crashing in a wooded portion of an area known as the “Turkmen Mountain” by the Turks.
Footage from Anadolu Agency of Turkey showed two pilots escaping the Russian warplane before it crashed. The two pilots were shot dead by Turkmen forces according to a deputy commander of the rebel group in Syria. One pilot was confirmed dead by Russian military while another soldier was killed when a rescue operation was launched.
One pilot may still be alive, according to a senior Turkish official. The official said while it is still a possibility, the information will be verified and take the necessary steps in returning them. Another video showed one pilot badly lying lifeless on the ground.
The Russian defense ministry said the Su-24 fighter jet was shot down in Syria and it was flying within Syrian territory for the duration of the flight, which was denied by Turkey.
Another senior official of Turkey said the information they have clearly shows two Russian warplanes approaching their border, and they were given a warning as they approached the border. The official added that Turkish airspace was knowingly violated a number of times.
A spokesman from the US military said the incident is an issue between the Russian and Turkish governments and operations of the US-led coalition will continue as planned.
The decision of Moscow to launch airstrikes in Syria is the first time NATO and Russian warplanes are flying combat missions since the Second World War. The military involvement of Russia resulted to a number of losses, including the bombing of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt. The Kremlin said operations in Syria will continue since public opinion on operations remained the same.
Moscow used these losses to perk up public opinion by indicating that the campaign was a moral crusade that should be completed by Russia. There was no US involvement in the shooting down of the Russian warplane, according to a US official. It is the first public acknowledgement of a Russian military plane being shot down by a member of NATO since the 1950s.
The incident may have an adverse effect on moves for a united front against the militant group in Syria following the attacks in Paris. The main stock index of Russia declined by over two percent even as stocks in Turkey went down by over four percent following the incident. The currencies of both countries also weakened.
Russians were advised by Lavrov to postpone visits to Turkey and one of the biggest tour operators in Russia said the sale of trips to Turkey will be temporarily suspended.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revealed that the Russian warplane crashed in the northern mountainous countryside of the Latakia province. The area was subjected to aerial bombardment and was the site of battles between pro-government forces and insurgents.
A voice was heard saying “a Russian pilot” in one of the videos as men gathered around the pilot lying on the ground. The video was released by the rebel group operating in the area. While the Free Syrian Army also operates in the area, the Islamic State is not known to operate in the area. The pilots were shot by Turkmen forces as they descended, a Turkmen brigade deputy commander said.
Alpaslan Celik said their comrades opened fire at the pilots, who died in the air. Rebel fighters in Syria also revealed they forced a Russian helicopter to land inside territory held by allies of the Syrian government.
A UN Security Council meeting was called by Turkey to discuss attacks on the Turkmens. The Russian ambassador was summoned last week by Ankara to protest bombings of the villages of the Syrians of Turkish descent. Fighting in the last three days saw around 1,700 people feeling the area, according to a Turkish official. The area was bombed by Russian warplanes to provide support for ground operations by the government forces of Syria.