Russia Rounds Up, Detains Turkish Nationals Following Downed Plane Incident

Alexei Druzhinin//Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File
Alexei Druzhinin//Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File
Washington, DC

Moscow has begun to impose restrictions on Turks living in Russia, following Turkey shooting down a Russian fighter jet last week that had violated Ankara’s air space.

Vladimir Putin’s officers rounded up Turkish workers, shut down a Turkish cultural center, and harassed Turkish businessmen, as Moscow has engaged in a purposeful infringement of their basic civil liberties.

On Tuesday, some 400 workers, many of whom had a Turkish background, were detained by police outside of Moscow and forcibly fingerprinted for a database. Officials then conducted a lengthy background check on the detained individuals.

“They said the check was due to national security,” Irina Lebedeva, who works in HR for the workers’ firm, told AFP. She said the raid lasted the entire day and resulted in the indefinite halting of construction.

“We hope this will not be repeated. It did disrupt our work. Perhaps in the current situation it can be justified,” she commented.

Other reports have surfaced claiming that Turks have been detained nationwide, with Moscow officials citing immigration issues as their reasoning for apprehending the Turkish nationals.

Russia has made several moves against Turkey following Ankara’s decision to intercept the Russian fighter jet.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that his military warned the unidentified plane several times.

“Despite being warned 10 times in five minutes because it was coming towards our border, it insisted on continuing its violation. This plane was downed in an intervention by our F-16s,” Erdogan said during a speech in the capital last week. “The reason why worse incidents have not taken place in the past regarding Syria is the cool-headedness of Turkey. Nobody should doubt that we made our best efforts to avoid this latest incident. But everyone should respect the right of Turkey to defend its borders,” he added.

Following the international incident, the Kremlin has imposed sanctions against Turkey, banning some food imports and blocking visas for Turkish tourists.

17 Turkish food products will be included in the ban, which will commence in 2016, an order signed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said.

Russia has also stopped flights between Istanbul and Moscow, and will eliminate the previous visa-free agreement it had with Turkey.

According to data from the Kremlin, there are around 100,000 Turkish nationals living in Russia.