Turkey has confirmed that it shot down a Russian fighter jet, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings – provoking the ire of Vladimir Putin.
Russia said the Su-24 jet was downed by artillery fire while on a bombing mission in Syria, but Turkey claimed its F-16s fired on the plane after it ignored several warnings.
Russia denies that the plane crossed the Syrian border into Turkish skies, with a defence ministry statement saying: “We are looking into the circumstances of the crash of the Russian jet. The Ministry of Defence would like to stress that the plane was over the Syrian territory throughout the flight.”
Video footage of the incident shows a warplane on fire before crashing on a hill, and two crew members can be seen apparently parachuting to safety.
The Russian defence ministry said the pilots ejected but Moscow has had no further contact with them.
A Turkish military statement said the plane entered its airspace over the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province. It said the plane was warned 10 times within the space of five minutes
Last month, Turkish jets shot down an unidentified drone that it said had violated Turkey’s airspace.
Vladimir Putin called Turkey’s decision to down a Russian war plane near the Syria border a “stab in the back”.
Speaking at a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Mr Putin accepted the king’s condolences on the death of a Russian pilot who was reportedly captured and dead.
Mr Putin said the Russian SU-24 jet was shot by a missile from a Turkish jet over Syria about one kilometre (just over half a mile) away from the Turkish border, which he described as a “stab in the back by the terrorists’ accomplices”.
He warned that the incident would have “significant consequences” for its relations with Turkey and criticised Ankara for turning to Nato to discuss the incident instead of first explaining to Russia what happened.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Syrian rebel group that captured the pilot said rebels are conducting search operations in the area to find the second crew member.
Jahed Ahmad, of the 10th Brigade in the Coast, a group affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, said his group would consider exchanging the body of the Russian pilot they are holding with prisoners held by the Syrian government.
Referring to the Russian pilot, Mr Ahmad said: “This is the body of a Russian member of the military who was killing Syrian people.”
He added: “We have the body and we will see what to do with it.”