President Vladimir Putin warned Ankara on Tuesday that Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane on the Syrian border would have “serious consequences” for ties.
Speaking at a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a tense-looking Putin branded the shooting down of the aircraft a “stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists”.
“I cannot call what happened today anything else,” he said, accusing Turkey’s armed forces of essentially backing the Islamic State group.
“Today’s tragic event will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations,” Putin said. “We will of course carefully analyse everything that happened.”
Russia later announced that a planned visit to Turkey on Wednesday by foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had been cancelled.
The fighter jet was shot down on the Syrian border by two Turkish F-16s, with Ankara saying the plane had violated Turkish airspace 10 times within a five-minute period.
Moscow said the fate of the two pilots was still unclear, while the Syrian opposition said one was dead and the other missing.
Putin rejected the accusations that the plane running sorties in Syria had violated Turkish airspace, saying it did not pose any threat to Turkey.
“Our plane was shot down over the territory of Syria by an air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16 jet. It fell in Syrian territory, four kilometres from the border with Turkey,” Putin said.
“Our pilots and our plane did not in any way threaten Turkey, that’s an obvious thing.”
He said the plane was shot down as it was targeting members of the IS group in the northern Latakia region, adding that they mostly hailed from Russia.
“They were carrying out their immediate task of conducting preventative strikes against terrorists who could return to Russia any second.”
Putin said Nato-member Turkey, which is part of a US-led coalition bombing the Islamic State group, shot down the plane despite Moscow’s agreement with the United States to avoid such incidents.
“We will never tolerate such crimes,” Putin said.
‘Who needed that?’
The Russian strongman also took issue with the fact that Turkey called a Nato meeting instead of reaching out to Moscow.
“It is as if we shot down a Turkish plane and not they ours,” he said.
“We always treated Turkey not only as a close neighbour but a friendly state. I don’t know who needed what was done today. Not us at least.”
He accused Turkish armed forces of providing backup to the IS jihadists.
“What, do they want to place Nato at the service of ISIL?” Putin said, referring to the Islamic State group by another acronym.
The defence ministry in Moscow summoned the Turkish military attache over the incident, while Ankara summoned the Russian charge d’affaires to the foreign ministry.
Jordanian King Abdullah II for his part expressed condolences at the loss of a Russian pilot and said the only way to end the conflict in Syria was through “your active participation, Russia’s participation”.