Friday 23 March 2018

Vladimir Putin: Russia will not forgive Turkey for shooting down jet

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
The Russian jet explodes in a fireball after being shot down over Syria

Vladimir Putin has claimed Turkey acted contrary to its own interests by downing a Russian warplane.

Speaking at his annual televised news conference, the Russian president said he sees no possibility of overcoming the diplomatic strain under the current Turkish leadership.

He said Moscow had been willing to accommodate Turkey's interests and he was stunned to see Ankara had not tried to explain its action and immediately turned to Nato for help instead.

Mr Putin said the deployment of Russian air defence missiles to Syria has put an end to violations of Syrian air space by Turkish military aircraft

The downing of the Su-24 and the deaths of two Russian servicemen have strained the traditionally warm relations between the two countries.

The jet was on a bombing mission near the Turkish-Syrian border when it was shot down on November 24. Turkey said the jet violated its air space, a claim that Moscow denies.

The president also said Russian military operation in Syria will continue until a political process is launched, adding that the Syrian people themselves must determine who rules the country.

Mr Putin, who met US secretary of state John Kerry earlier this week, said Moscow supports a US draft of a UN Security Council resolution on Syria. He said a new constitution for Syria must be drafted and a new election prepared in which the Syrians determine its leadership.

He added that Moscow believes a political settlement is the only way to end the Syrian crisis.

Mr Putin said that, once the Syrians decide it is time to stop fighting and launch talks, "we aren't going to be more Syrian than the Syrians themselves", and Moscow will wrap up its military action.

He added that he was unsure whether Russia needs a permanent military base in Syria, saying that new Russian weapons, such as sea- and air-launched cruise missiles, give Moscow enough punch to strike an enemy.

Mr Putin also said that Russia will discuss a possible exchange of prisoners with Ukraine.

He said Russia has had no regular troops in eastern Ukraine, but added that people have been "performing some military tasks".

Mr Putin added that Russia is "interested in seeing the conflict settled as quickly as possible".

He urged the Ukrainian government to swiftly approve legislation on holding local elections, but he says the Ukrainian authorities were dragging their feet on the issue.

He said Russia wants the conflict settled and is ready to use its influence with the rebels in eastern Ukraine to reach a compromise.

Mr Putin also said that Russia is ready to work to improve ties with the United States, and to work with anyone who is elected its next president.

He said that his talks with Mr Kerry have shown that Washington is ready to "move towards settling the issues that can only be settled through joint efforts".

He also said Russia honestly won the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

Asked to comment on the ongoing investigation into the alleged corruption at Fifa, he said that Russia has done nothing wrong. He said that the nation has won the right to host the football tournament in an "honest competition".

Mr Putin praised Fifa's suspended president, Sepp Blatter, for his contribution to the sport. And the Russian leader repeated his belief that Mr Blatter deserves a Nobel prize for his efforts.

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