Russia’s foreign minister has claimed Turkey’s shooting down of one of its jets was a “planned provocation” and “deliberate act”.
Sergei Lavrov repeated Russia’s claims that the SU-24 aircraft did not leave Syrian borders yesterday morning, despite Turkish and US radar data showing it briefly crossing into the neighbouring country’s airspace.
Claiming there was no legal justification for firing on the jet, Mr Lavrov said: “It all looks like a planned provocation…I can’t speculate about Turkey’s real reasons but we have plenty of information that confirms this was a deliberate pre-planned act.
“Some of our partners who contacted us yesterday told us that this was an evident set-up, that they had been looking for an excuse and waiting for an opportunity to do something like that.”
In a letter to the United Nations, the Turkish government said that the jet “violated Turkish national airspace” in the disputed Hatay province for 17 seconds and had been warned 10 times in the previous five minutes to change course.
Mr Lavrov cast doubt on the claim, saying Russian data showed the plane was in Syria, but argued that if Turkey’s claim was true it would show “hypocrisy” on behalf of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
He quoted the Turkish President in 2012, when he condemned Syria for shooting down a Turkish F-4 Phantom in a similar incident over disputed airspace.
“A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack,” Mr Erdogan told MPs at the time.
In response to questions from journalists, Mr Lavrov assured them that Russia is “not going to wage war on Turkey”, change its attitude to its ally or seek revenge against Turkey with economic sanctions or trade cuts.
But he did not shy away from criticising the country’s leadership, claiming that Moscow tried to take “the interests of our Turkish neighbours” into account but could no longer stay silent over their alleged support for “extremist groups”.
Alleging that Isis-manufactured petrol and even human organs and body parts were being sold in Turkey, Mr Lavrov claimed that “terrorists feel at home” in parts of the country.
He said Russia was still open to joining a wider international coalition against Isis, supported by France and other nations in the wake of the Paris attack, but that all countries would have to agree on a “common approach” to the groups targeted.
Russia has drawn international criticism for supporting Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime to bomb non-jihadist groups, but Mr Lavrov said the shooting of one of its pilots by Turkmen rebels proved they were “terrorists”.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies