Friday 9 December 2016

Tensions rise after Turkish fighter shoots down Russian warplane

Published 25/11/2015 | 06:25

Alpaslan Celik, a deputy commander in a Syrian Turkmen brigade (centre), holds handles believed to be parts of a parachute of the downed Russian warplane near the northern Syrian village of Yamadi, near the Turkish-Syrian border, Syria. Reuters
Alpaslan Celik, a deputy commander in a Syrian Turkmen brigade (centre), holds handles believed to be parts of a parachute of the downed Russian warplane near the northern Syrian village of Yamadi, near the Turkish-Syrian border, Syria. Reuters

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that it said ignored repeated warnings and crossed into its airspace from Syria, killing at least one of the two pilots.

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It was a long-feared escalation in tensions between Nato and Russia, with President Vladimir Putin denouncing a "stab in the back" and warning of "significant consequences".

It was the first time in half a century that a Nato member has downed a Russian plane and prompted an emergency meeting of the alliance.

The pilots of the downed Su-24 ejected, but one was killed by Syrian rebel fire from the ground as he parachuted to Earth, said the Russian general staff, insisting the Russian jet had been in Syrian airspace at the time.

One of two helicopters sent to the crash site to search for survivors was also hit by rebel fire, killing one serviceman and forcing the chopper to make an emergency landing, the military said.

A US defence official in Washington said the Russian plane flew across a two-mile section of Turkish airspace before it was shot down, meaning it was in Turkish skies for only a matter of seconds.

The incident highlighted the chaotic complexity of Syria's civil war, where multiple groups with clashing alliances are fighting on the ground and the sky is crowded with aircraft bombing various targets.

"As we have repeatedly made clear we stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our Nato ally, Turkey," Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

He urged "calm and de-escalation" and renewed contacts between Moscow and Ankara.

Russia has long been at odds with Nato, which it accuses of encroaching on Russia's borders, as well as with Turkey's determination to oust Syrian president Bashar Assad, a long-time Moscow ally.

Press Association

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