MOSCOW (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (Nov 24) branded the downing by Turkey of a Russian warplane on the Syrian border a "stab in the back" committed by "accomplices of terrorists" and warned of serious consequences for bilateral ties.
The shooting down of the fighter plane was "a stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists," Putin said at a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
"I cannot call what happened today anything else," said a visibly furious Putin.
He insisted that the plane was flying over Syrian territory and did not pose any threat to Turkey. “Our plane was shot down on Syrian territory by an air-to-air missile from an F-16. It fell on Syrian territory 4 kilometres from the Turkish border. It was flying at 6,000 metres and 1 kilometre from Turkish territory when it was attacked.”
That contradicted Turkey’s assertion that the aircraft had been warned multiple times that it was straying into Turkish airspace before it was shot down.
Putin said Russian pilots and planes had in no way threatened Turkey, but had merely been carrying out their duty to fight ISIS militants inside Syria.
“We will of course analyse everything that happened and today’s tragic events will have serious consequences for Russo-Turkish relations,” he said.
“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,” he added, saying that was how militants had been funding themselves.
“And now we get stabbed in our back and our planes, which are fighting terrorism, are struck. This despite the fact that we signed an agreement with our American partners to warn each other about air-to-air incidents and Turkey ... announced it was allegedly fighting against terrorism as part of the US coalition.”
If ISIS militants earned hundreds of millions of dollars from trading oil and enjoyed the protection of the armed forces “of entire governments” no wonder, said Putin, they behaved so boldly.
Turkey is one of the most popular holiday destinations for Russians, and the two countries enjoy active diplomatic relations.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to visit Turkey on Wednesday, in a trip arranged before the incident, while Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to visit Russia for talks with Putin in December.
Putin expressed anger at Turkey’s decision to convene a meeting of Nato to discuss the incident, suggesting Ankara should instead have swiftly tried to contact Moscow.
“It’s as if we shot down a Turkish plane rather than them shooting down one of ours. What do they want? To put Nato at Islamic State’s disposal? We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today.”