NEW: Russian President Vladimir Putin says U.S. was informed of Russian aircraft's flight path
"If the same violation occurs today, Turkey has to react the same way," Turkish President says
Turkey releases audio it says proves it warned Russian warplane; plane's captain refutes claim
Turkey will not apologize for downing the Russian fighter jet that Turkey says violated its airspace near the Syrian border, Erdogan said Thursday in an exclusive CNN interview.
“I think if there is a party that needs to apologize, it is not us,” Erdogan said. “Those who violated our airspace are the ones who need to apologize. Our pilots and our armed forces, they simply fulfilled their duties, which consisted of responding to … violations of the rules of engagement. I think this is the essence.”
In a meeting with community leaders in Ankara, Erdogan said, “If the same violation occurs today, Turkey has to react the same way.”
Turkey has said it shot down the Russian warplane Tuesday only after it ignored several warnings and entered Turkish airspace.
Russia has contested the claim, and its rescued co-pilot Capt. Konstantin Murakhtin told state media that “there were no warnings – not via the radio, not visually.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said the downing of the Russian jet did not appear spontaneous, but more “like a planned provocation.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters in Moscow on Thursday that the strike was unexpected.
“It did not even come into our mind that we could be struck by a party that we considered to be our ally,” he said. “We considered Turkey to be a friendly country.”
Putin also noted that Russia had informed the United States, Turkey’s ally, of its flight path, and said it was “not possible” the Turkish air force didn’t recognize the Russian aircraft.
“Turkey is a member of this (U.S.-led) coalition and must know that Russians are working there,” he said.
Turkey’s military has released audio it says proves its claim; Russia’s Defense Ministry tweeted Thursday that the audio purporting to capture warnings issued by Turkish pilots to the crew of the downed jet was “a habitual fake.”
Putin has said the plane was attacked a kilometer inside Syrian territory, while Erdogan says it crashed in Turkey, injuring two people, after being in Turkish airspace for 17 seconds.
“We knew there were two aircraft. One aircraft went back into Syria, and the second one was still in Turkish airspace and it was shot down by our aircraft,” Erdogan told CNN.
Charges of terrorism
Tensions in the Middle East have escalated since the downing of the Russian warplane, with Erdogan accusing Russia of deceit and Moscow announcing it will deploy anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. A post on the Russian Defense Ministry’s Facebook page showed an S-400 missile system being unloaded from a Russian cargo plane.
The post said the system will be installed at Syria’s Hmeymin airbase near Latakia, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, as Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu promised Wednesday on his ministry’s Twitter feed.
The missiles have a range of 250 kilometers (155 miles), according to Missile Threat, which monitors ballistic missile capabilities around the world. The Turkish border is fewer than 45 kilometers (30 miles) away.
The countries’ militaries suspended their channels of cooperation, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Russia and Turkey have each accused the other of supporting terrorism. Speaking at an event in Moscow, prior to CNN’s interview with Erdogan, Putin said Turkey had not apologized or offered compensation for the downed warplane. He charged that Turkey was trying to bring its relations with Russia to a “dead end.”
Erdogan dubbed a “huge mistake” Putin’s claim that Turkey is an accomplice to terrorism and that shooting down Russia’s plane “represents a stab in the back.”
He also addressed a claim – repeated Thursday afternoon by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova – that Turkey had oil and financial ties to ISIS.
“If Mr. Putin is saying that we are cooperating with Daesh, that we are accomplices, I think that would be a huge mistake, because we are doing the exact opposite,” he told CNN, using another name for ISIS. “Yesterday there was a declaration which was very unacceptable. Some people claimed that we were buying oil from Daesh – and the fact that people in positions of authority in Russia said this is very, very unacceptable.”
He said Russia has no room to talk because it is not taking on the terrorist outfit itself: “Russia is not engaged in a fight against Daesh in Syria. On the contrary, they are actually targeting moderate opposition.”
The assertion is supported by CNN military analyst Cedric Leighton, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who said, “None of the targets that … the Russians were going after had anything to do with ISIS. Those were all those Turkmen groups.”
Late Thursday, however, Russia insisted again it had taken out “all terrorists” in the area where the navigator of the Russian jet crash was rescued, Konashenkov said. Russia’s air force conducted “massive airstrikes” and the Syrian army had provided artillery support, giving full control of the mountainous area in north Latakia governorate to Syrian troops, he said, claiming that Russia now controls all ISIS supply routes in north Syria.
Out come the economic weapons
Economic weapons have also been unsheathed. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has directed government ministers to draw up economic measures against Turkey.
Russia’s Agriculture Ministry announced that it was strengthening controls over food and agriculture imports from Turkey. A gas pipeline and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, in which Russia and Turkey have jointly invested, could also be targeted, Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukaev said in a tweet.
Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev is quoted on the ministry’s website saying that roughly 15% of Turkish agricultural products fail to meet Russian standards.
A gas pipeline and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, in which Russia and Turkey have jointly invested, could also be targeted, Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukaev said in a tweet.
In addition, Russia’s state-run consumer protection body said it had concerns about the quality and safety of children’s clothing, furniture and cleaning products originating from Turkey.
Some Russian tour operators have said they will be curtailing travel to Turkey, a top destination for Russian vacationers.
The unusual clash between Russia and a NATO member highlights the dangerous and unpredictable nature of the Syrian war, which has drawn global powers, including the United States, into a chaotic and complex conflict.