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Surviving Russian Pilot Says Downed Plane Got No Warnings From Turkey

Speaking to a Russian news agency from the Syrian airbase he was taken to after being rescued, Captain Konstantin Murakhtin said his jet had not been in Turkish airspace "even for a second.”

by Reuters and VICE News
Nov 25 2015, 10:45am

Photo via Haberturk TV/EPA

The surviving crew member of the Russian fighter jet shot down by Turkey on Tuesday said on Wednesday afternoon the plane received "no warning" from the Turkish Air Force and did not fly over Turkish air space.

Speaking from Russia's airbase near Latakia in Syria, where he was taken after being rescued, Captain Konstantin Murakhtin said he knew the region he had been flying in "very well" and that the jet had not been in Turkish airspace "even for a second."

"There were no warnings from either the radio channel or visually, there was no contact at all," he told Interfax news agency.

Later in the day Turkish military released what it said was an audio recording of a warning to a Russian fighter jet before it was shot down near the Syrian border. A voice on the unverified recording can be heard saying "change your heading."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has claimed that Turkey's downing of its warplane was a "planned provocation."

Russia had "serious doubts this was an unintended incident," said Lavrov following a meeting with his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday morning, but stressed "We're not going to war against Turkey."

Earlier, Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan said his nation had acted simply to defend its own security and the "rights of our brothers" in Syria.But in Russia's view those "brothers" are Islamic State militants themselves, according to a statement from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reported by Russia Today.

"Turkey's actions are de facto protection of Islamic State," he was reported as saying. "This is no surprise, considering the information we have about direct financial interest of some Turkish officials relating to the supply of oil products refined by plants controlled by ISIS."

In a series of tweets on Wednesday morning, Medvevev said Turkey's "criminal" actions had led to a "dangerous aggravation" of relations between Russia and NATO, that Turkey had demonstrated it was protecting IS, and that Turkey could lose important business projects in Russia as a result.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Turkey's political leaders had been encouraging the "Islamization" of Turkish society, which was a problem — following comments on Tuesday that the downing of the jet had been a "stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists."

Meanwhile it was announced by Russia's ambassador to France that one of the two Russian pilots who ejected from the jet had been picked up by the Syrian army and was being taken to Russia's military base there. He also confirmed the other pilot was killed, and a marine had died in a rescue mission.

"One on board was wounded when he parachuted down and killed in a savage way on the ground by the jihadists in the area and the other managed to escape and, according to the latest information, has been picked up by the Syrian army and should be going back to the Russian airforce base," ambassador Alexandre Orlov told Europe 1 radio.

Turkmen rebels in Syria published a video on Tuesday of what appeared to be a dead Russian pilot, as well as footage purporting to show them firing a missile on a Russian rescue helicopter while it was on the ground.

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday that Russia would send its advanced S-400 air defense system to its air base in Syria's Latakia province a day after Turkey shot down one of its jets, Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.

Russia has also said its planes sent to bomb Syria will now be accompanied by fighter jets to defend them. Russia has already warned its citizens against going on holiday to Turkey and suspended defense cooperation between the countries.

Others in Russia are demanding economic sanctions and flights to Turkey to be canceled. One major tour operator has canceled its Turkey packages.

The United Nations and NATO urged both countries to show restraint in wake of the incident on Tuesday, though both backed Turkey's version of what happened. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: "We stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally."

The shooting down of the Russian warplane near the Syrian border on Tuesday was one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a NATO member country and Russia for half a century.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plane had been attacked when it was 1 km (0.62 mile) inside Syria and has warned of "serious consequences."

A US official told Reuters on Tuesday that Washington believed the jet was hit inside Syrian air space after a very brief incursion into Turkey, an assessment based on detection of the heat signature of the aircraft.

But Turkey, in a letter to the United Nations Security Council, said it shot down the jet in its airspace. Along with a second plane, the aircraft flew more than a mile into Turkey for 17 seconds despite being warned 10 times while approaching to change direction, the letter said.