LIVE UPDATES: NATO Member Shoots Down Russian Fighter Jet On Syria Border

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Turkish fighter jets shot down a warplane near the Syrian border after it violated Turkey’s airspace on Tuesday, a Turkish military official said, with Russia confirming it had lost one of its jets. Live updates below.

Turkish F16s warned the jet over the airspace violations before shooting it down, the military official told Reuters.

Footage from private broadcaster Haberturk TV showed a warplane going down in flames in a woodland area, a long plume of smoke trailing behind it. The plane went down in area known by Turks as “Turkmen Mountain” in northern Syria near the Turkish border, Haberturk said.

Separate footage from Turkey’s Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed.

According to LBC this is the moment it happened:

The Russian defence ministry has confirmed that one of its Su-24 fighter jets was shot down in Syria, but denied Turkish claims it had been violating the country’s airspace. Russia has repeatedly carried out air strikes in Syria in defence of President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey called this week for a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss attacks on Turkmens in neighbouring Syria, and last week Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the bombing of their villages. Ankara has traditionally expressed solidarity with Syrian Turkmens, who are Syrians of Turkish descent. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has spoken with the chief of military staff and the foreign minister about the developments on the Syrian border, the prime minister’s office said in a statement, without mentioning the downed jet. He has ordered the foreign ministry to consult with NATO, the United Nations and related countries on the latest developments, his office said.


1:15pm: Russia reports a military fatality during search-and-rescue operations for the Su-24 pilots – apparently a separate incident from the TOW missile attack claimed by Syrian rebel forces. Shortly after the initial report, it was announced that a second Russian soldier was killed by ground fire during rescue operations.

Also, Reuters reports that the Russian Defense Ministry announced the suspension of military contact with Turkey.

12:15pm: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based activist group opposed to both the Assad regime and ISIS, confirmed that Syrian fighters destroyed a Russian helicopter. According to this report, the helicopter was hit by a missile after the 10-man Russian crew evacuated.

4:15pm: Contrary to previous reports, CNN Turk has sources that claim both of the Russian pilots are alive, and Russia may have a POW / hostage situation on its hands. If this is true, and the earlier video and reports of Syrian rebels firing at the descending pilots remain accurate, they either missed the pilots or only injured them with small arms fire, and the wounded pilot depicted in the widely-circulated cell phone video is wounded but alive.

4:15pm: Russian media has Putin’s back on his charge that Turkey has been collaborating with terrorists in pursuit of oil profits:

3:50pm: The Free Syrian Army has posted video of what it claims is this morning’s attack on a Russian helicopter. They had plenty of time to film themselves setting up the weapon and lining up the shot, as the helicopter was on the ground at the time. If this video is genuine, you’re watching President Obama’s “moderate Syrian rebels” shouting “Allahu akbar!” after they use an American missile to attack a Russian search-and-rescue helicopter:

3:20pm: According to Jennifer Griffin of Fox News, U.S. military sources say American pilots in the area heard the Turks repeatedly warn the Russian pilots to stay out of their airspace. Breitbart News has a reporter at this morning’s Pentagon press conference, and will post further details as they become available.

3:05pm: Hurriyet Daily News reports a Russian warship passed through the Dardanelles, en route to the Mediterranean, just minutes after the Turks shot down Russia’s Su-24.  Hurriyet identifies this ship as the Yamal. A ship with that name is part of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, and has moved between the Black Sea and Mediterranean several times over the past year. It seems likely that it was already headed for the Mediterranean before this morning’s incident, rather than being deployed specifically as a response to the downing of Russia’s jet, but its presence could be cited by the Turks as part of their ongoing complaint about the heavy hand Russia is using in Syria.

2:50pm: A deputy commander of the Turkmen forces in Syria has claimed credit for killing both Russian pilots, as reported by the Daily Star of Lebanon. “Both of the pilots were retrieved dead. Our comrades opened fire into the air and they died in the air,” said Alpaslan Celik, speaking near the Syrian village of Yamadi, and brandishing what he claimed was a piece of one pilot’s parachute.

2:45pm: According to Reuters, the planned visit by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to Turkey – a meeting intended to help soothe tensions between the two countries over the Syrian situation – has been canceled.  The Turks were saying the meeting would proceed as planned earlier this morning.

2:40pm: Protesters have gathered at the Russian consulate in Istanbul, specifically to protest Russian bombing operations against Turkmen.  Among the chants reported by CTV News are “Turkmen brothers are not alone!” and “Killer Russia, get out of Syria!” The same CTV post has Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu defending the destruction of Russia’s warplane, saying Turkey is entitled to “take all kinds of measures” against violations of its airspace under international law.  He said it was Turkey’s “national duty” to do so. Davutoglu also called on the international community to “extinguish the fire that is burning in Syria.”  Unfortunately, Turkey’s plan for extinguishing that fire is the exact opposite of Russia’s plan: Turkey thinks Bashar Assad must go, while Russia says all of the rebel forces are terrorists, and are bombing to protect Assad. Turks are reportedly taking to the streets in Istanbul to celebrate the downing of the Russian jet, complete with cries of “Allahu akbar!” 2:35pm: This video purportedly shows Syrian rebels shooting at one of the Russian pilots as he parachutes down. Firing on parachutists is a violation of the Geneva Conventions

2:30pm: The UK Independent reports a Syrian rebel group, armed by the United States with TOW anti-tank missiles, claims to have shot down a Russian helicopter engaged in search-and-rescue operations for the Su-24 jet pilots.  The helicopter was damaged and forced to make an emergency landing in territory controlled by the Assad regime.

2:25pm: CNN Turk reports that Turkish President Erdogan has called a security summit with his Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, along with other ministers and the head of the armed forces.

2:20pm: Buzzfeed notes that Turkey has been warning the Russians for several weeks that it would protect the Turkmen, who are presumably the “terrorists that could have come back to Russia at any moment” Vladimir Putin referred to in his speech.

“Turkey has sought to use the Turkmen cause to rally domestic support for more robust intervention in the Syrian conflict and pursue its goal of establishing a ‘safe zone’ in parts of northern Syria, according to analysts. Over the weekend, Turkish warplanes backed Turkmen rebel fighters as they captured two villages from ISIS,” Buzzfeed reports.

2:10pm: A full video and transcript of President Putin’s remarks can be found here.  In response, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States warned Russia: “Do not test Turkey’s patience, try to gain Turkey’s friendship.”

A Syrian rebel told CNN that rebel fighters machine-gunned both Russian pilots as they were parachuting from their stricken plane.  Turkish news agencies are relaying similar reports from Turkmen rebels in the area.

1:34pm: Diplomats are moving into overdrive. Russia has summoned Turkey’s military attache in Moscow. In Turkey the Russian Charge D’Affairs was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which has also summoned  British, American, French and Chinese envoys to brief them on the situation.

1:22PM: In his most provocative comment, President Putin concluded:

“Do they want to make NATO serve ISIS? I understand that every state has its own regional interests and we’ve always respected that, but we will never allow the kind of crime that happened to today to take place. And of course we hope that the international community will find the strength to come together and fight against the common evil.”

1:20PM: President Putin has alleged “a lot of oil and petrol products” are smuggled into Turkey from Islamic State controlled territories, financing the terror group. In doing so The Independent says President Putin infers Turkey was supporting Islamic State with indirect ‘protection’, allowing it to commit atrocities like the Paris attacks.

1:16PM: NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero has announced an emergency session of the alliance to be held in Brussels later today:

“The aim of this extraordinary [North Atlantic Council] meeting is for Turkey to inform allies about the downing of a Russian aeroplane. NATO is monitoring the situation closely. We are in close contact with Turkish authorities.”

1:12PM: The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said a Syrian rebel group claims to have hit a Russian helicopter, thought to have been seeking the downed pilots, with an anti-tank missile. The claims are as yet unsubstantiated.

1:10PM: President Putin has criticised Turkey’s immediate reaction to the downing of the jet.

“We have always treated Turkey as a friendly state. I don’t know who was interested in what happened today, certainly not us. And instead of immediately getting in contact with us, as far as we know, the Turkish side immediately turned to their partners from Nato to discuss this incident, as if we shot down their plane and not they ours.”

1:00PM: A former British ambassador to Moscow, Sir Andrew Wood, has told Sky News the “ambiguity of the situation” makes it dangerous. He said Russia is unlikely to admit their error, if that turns out to be the case, but if it chooses to escalate the situation that will be “very dangerous indeed” given Turkey’s NATO membership.

12:55PM: President Putin says the pilots, both now confirmed dead, were threatening nobody flying over Syrian territory 4km from the Turkish border when their jet was downed.

“Our soldiers are fighting terrorism, sacrificing their own lives…and today’s loss is a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists. I can’t find another way to describe what’s happened today. Our plane was shot down over Syrian territory by a missile that came from F-16 Turkish warplane. It fell on Syrian territory 4km away from the Turkish border.”

Turkey’s Prime Minister says Turkey has the right to respond if its airspace is violated.

12:52PM: Russian President Vladimir Putin says “serious consequences” for Russian-Turkish relations will follow what he describes as a “stab in the back”.

12:50PM: Rebels have released a photograph of a dead Russian pilot, with a helmet that matches those worn by the Russian Air Force in official photos from its base in Latakia.

Additional reporting by Reuters


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