Putin warns of ‘serious consequences’ after plane downed
Russian President Vladimir Putin describes Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane as a “stab in the back”, while Nato holds an extraordinary meeting to discuss the incident.
Turkey, a Nato member, said it shot down the plane because it had violated Turkish air space, which Russia denied.
President Putin said the plane was two thirds of a mile inside Syria when it was attacked and warned of “serious consequences” for his country’s relations with Turkey. He described the incident as a “stab in the back by the terrorists’ accomplices”.
Nato is holding a meeting at Turkey’s request and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has cancelled a planned visit to Turkey on Wednesday.
It is the first time a Russian plane has been downed by a Nato member since the 1950s.
Video footage showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed. A deputy commander of rebel Turkmen forces in Syria said his men shot dead both pilots as they came down.
Another video sent to Reuters earlier appeared to show one of the pilots immobile and badly wounded on the ground, with reports he was dead.
In a further escalation, Syrian rebel fighters armed by the US said they had fired on a Russian helicopter searching for the pilots, forcing it to land in territory controlled by the Syrian government.
The Turkish military said the plane had been warned 10 times in the space of five minutes about violating Turkish air space.
Russia’s decision in September to launch air strikes in Syria, to support the Assad regime, means it and Nato are now flying combat missions in the same air space for the first time since World War Two,
Until recently, Russia was criticised by western countries, including Britain, for bombing rebel forces fighting Assad, rather than Islamic State, which is being targeted by US-led forces.
Since the downing on 31 October of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai, which has been blamed on IS extremists, Russia has also been hitting Islamic State.
The downing of one of its planes by Turkey will make it more difficult to continue this rapprochement between Russia and the west.
The part of north-west Syria where the plane came down is known as an area where the Free Syrian Army is active. IS is not believed to have a presence there.