Rescued pilot: No warning from Turkey, no airspace violation
Rescued co-pilot of the downed Russian Su-24 jet Captain Konstantin Murahtin said there were no visual or radio warnings issued by Turkey, Sputnik reports.
The pilot said: “There were no warnings. Not via the radio, not visually. There was no contact whatsoever. That’s why we were keeping our combat course as usual.
“You have to understand what the cruising speed of a bomber is compared to an F-16. If they wanted to warn us, they could have shown themselves by heading on a parallel course. But there was nothing. And the rocket hit our tail completely unexpectedly. We didn’t even see it in time to take evasive maneuvers.”
He said there was no violation of Turkish airspace adding that the crew of the downed Russian bomber jet knew the area of the operation “like the back of their hands.”
The co-pilot added that he wants to continue serving in the Russian aviation group in Syria.
The rescue operation of the co-pilot lasted 12 hours before he returned to the Hmeymim airbase safe and sound, Russian Defense Ministry Gen. Sergei Shoigu said earlier.
The other pilot who died will be awarded the Star of Hero of the Russian Federation posthumously. Murahtin will also be given state honors along with the rescue team.
Earlier, Russian Ambassador to France Aleksandr Orlov told Europe 1 radio that one of the pilots on board wounded when he parachuted down was killed in a savage way on the ground by jihadists in the area. Another report said the pilot was killed by fire from the ground.
He also said Russia is prepared to coordinate strikes against Islamic State militants in a joint command with the United States, France and others who want to participate, including Turkey.
In another development Wednesday, Russia said it will employ every single resource available, including the S-300 system, to ensure the safety of flights over Syria, President Vladimir Putin said.
“The S-300 air defense complex will be moved to our air base in Syria. I do hope that this and other measures that we will take will be enough to make flights safe,” he said.
Earlier, the Russian defense minister noted that Russia’s S-400 Triumf air defense systems will be moved to the Hmeimim air base in Syria. It is as an upgrade of the S-300 Growler family, designed and developed by Almaz Antei.
The Moskva cruiser, stationed in Latakia as part of the military buildup, is a 11,500-ton, 186-meter warship serving as part of the Russian Black Sea fleet. In addition to anti-ship missiles, anti-submarine mortars and torpedoes, it has 64 Fort missiles, the naval version of the S-300 long-range air defense system. The missiles can engage targets at a range of up to 150km, which is enough to cover all of southern Turkey from Latakia.
Russian military in Syria has ramped up security. All Russian bombers will now be accompanied by fighter jets to protect them from possible aggression. Russia also warned that it would destroy any aircraft threatening Russian forces deployed in the Middle Eastern country.
But flight data released by Russian Ministry of Defense shows that the Su-24 never entered Turkey, and was attacked while performing legitimate maneuvers over Syria.
Downing of jet a planned provocation: Lavrov
The downing of a Russian war plane in Syria by Turkey appears to be a planned provocation, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov said. Ankara failed to communicate with Russia over the incident, he said.
After talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, he also said that Moscow is not planning any war on Turkey.
“We are not planning to wage a war against Turkey, our attitude towards Turkish people has not changed,” the minister said. “We have questions only to the Turkish leadership.”
“We have also serious doubts that this act (downing of the plane) was unintentional. It looks very much like a preplanned provocation,” Lavrov said, citing Turkey’s failure to maintain proper communication with Russia, the abundance of footage of the incident and other evidence.
Lavrov added that many Russian partners called the incident “an obvious ambush.”
A former US Air Force general agreed with Lavrov.
Turkish president has a hidden agenda in the Syrian conflict. The incident may have been planned by Erdogan to drive Russia and NATO apart, former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney told Fox News.
“I think the intentional provocation may have been by Turkey’s President Erdogan. Turkey has been a very secular nation, but he has driven it towards an Islamic society with Sharia law, et cetera. And so I think he may have a hidden agenda. He probably would not mind seeing Russia and NATO get into another conflict like we had in the Ukraine, which we do not need,” the retired US Air Force general said.
According to McInerney, who took Turkish claims that the Russian plane entered Turkish territory at face value, the plane would not have been over Turkish territory long enough for its maneuvers to be seen as offensive.
Reckless criminal act: Russian PM
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev slammed Turkey’s downing of a Russian Su-24 Fencer bomber over Syrian territory, calling it a “reckless criminal act” that will worsen relations between Russia and NATO and shows that Ankara is protecting the IS terrorist organization.
“The recklessness of the Turkish authorities’ criminal actions of downing the Russian airplane has led to three consequences. The first is the dangerous worsening of relations between Russia and NATO that cannot be justified by any interests, including the protection of state borders,” the Russian prime minister said.
The second consequence was a demonstration of Turkish intention to protect the IS militants.
“Turkey’s actions basically made it clear that the country protects IS. This is hardly surprising, considering the reports that certain Turkish officials have a vested interest in cheap oil supplies coming from the Islamic State,” Dmintry Medvedev said.
“And third, the undermining of long friendly relations between Russia and Turkey, including in the economic and humanitarian spheres. This damage will be difficult to compensate, and its immediate consequences could turn into the refusal of a range of important joint projects and the loss of positions by Turkish companies on the Russian market,” Medvedev said.
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the Turkish attack as a “stab in the back” carried out by “accomplices of terrorists.”
Ankara’s move ‘a big mistake’
According to Ismail Hakki Pekin, former head of the Turkish General Staff’s Intelligence Department, Turkey’s decision to shoot down a Russian Su-24 bomber while it was involved in an anti-terrorist operation was a big mistake.
In an interview with Sputnik, former head of the Turkish General Staff’s Intelligence Department Hakki Pekin condemned Turkey’s decision to shoot down a Russian Su-24 bomber, describing it as a “big mistake.”
He specifically pointed to the fact that “the warplane posed no threat to Turkey’s security and showed no hostile intentions.”
Referring to Russia’s 2008 sanctions against Georgia and its ongoing sanctions on Ukraine, Pekin suggested that Russia’s response to the downing of the Su-24 will be very tough.
“Apart from sanctions, Russia also deployed its Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad in retaliation against NATO’s increasing activities. You have to understand that Russia has a very strong potential in this field,” Pekin said.
He also suggested that the incident with the Russian warplane could further add to Turkey losing its clout in the region.
“Turkey is losing its position in the region following a recent agreement on the military bases. The country is distancing itself from Iran, Syria and Iraq and increasingly drawn into the sphere of influence of Washington’s policy,” he pointed out.
Separately, Pekin suggested that Russia could use the information on Islamic State (IS) selling oil via Turkish territory to have Turkey convicted by the International Court in The Hague.