Russia accuses Turkey of 'planned provocation'

An anti-Turkey protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Moscow yesterday. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that Turkish companies may lose their position in the Russian market and important joint projects may be halted because of the breac
An anti-Turkey protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Moscow yesterday. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that Turkish companies may lose their position in the Russian market and important joint projects may be halted because of the breach in "longstanding neighbourly relations".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Attack an 'ambush', says Moscow; but US confirms Turkish pilots issued 10 warnings

ISTANBUL • Turkey's Nato allies have called for a rapid de-escalation in tensions between Ankara and Moscow as Russia accused Turkey of a "planned provocation" over the downing of a Russian warplane on the Syrian border.

Moscow said one of the pilots was killed by fire from the ground after parachuting out of the burning plane on Tuesday, while the second had been taken to safety by the Syrian army.

The Defence Ministry said a Russian soldier was also killed when a helicopter search-and-rescue operation came under fire although others were evacuated.

Turkey said the Russian plane had violated its airspace 10 times within a five-minute period.

The Turkish military released a map it said showed the Russian plane transiting a narrow finger of Turkish land about 3km wide.

A second Russian plane also violated the country's airspace, Turkish officials said, but it was not shot down.

Russia insisted that its jet never crossed into Turkey's airspace and that Turkey never warned the Russian bomber.

However, the US military confirmed that Turkish pilots had warned the Russian pilot 10 times, but that Russia ignored the warnings.

The attack appeared to be "an ambush", Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters yesterday in Moscow. "It looks very much like a planned provocation," he said.

But Turkish officials said they did not know the plane was Russian when they fired on it.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country "will have to respond to" any future air incidents. "We are taking this incident in the most serious possible way and all means will be used to ensure security," he said yesterday.

Russia also warned of economic consequences from the conflict.

Turkish companies - which are active in everything from construction to retailing - may lose their position in the Russian market and important joint projects may be halted because of the breach in "longstanding neighbourly relations", Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said.

Following an extraordinary meeting of the alliance on Tuesday, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said "diplomacy and de-escalation are important to resolve this situation".

He also called Russia's Syrian campaign "misguided" because it is not targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group. "It is important that all of us, also Russia, are guided by the overarching goal of defeating ISIL," Mr Stoltenberg told reporters.

Russia began intervening in the Syrian civil war on Sept 30 in support of President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces are fighting insurgents backed by regional powers including Turkey.

The Russian air raids, launched ostensibly to target ISIS, have mostly hit other, foreign-backed rebel groups, the United States says.

Diplomats present at the Nato meeting told Reuters that, while none of the 28 Nato envoys defended Russia's actions, many expressed concern that Turkey did not escort the Russian warplane out of its air space.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday added to the calls for calm. "The shooting down of a Russian jet has further heightened the situation in Syria," she said in Berlin.

As recriminations flew, several hundred young activists hurled stones and eggs at Turkey's Embassy in Moscow yesterday and brandished anti-Turkish placards in a brief protest.

Russian forces also launched a heavy bombardment against insurgent-held areas in Syria's Latakia province yesterday, near where the Russian jet had been shot down, rebels and a monitoring group said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2015, with the headline 'Russia accuses Turkey of 'planned provocation''. Print Edition | Subscribe