A dangerous escalation is taking place in Greece’s backyard, after Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 on Tuesday morning, claiming that the jet bomber had violated its airspace in the south. The Russian jet was reportedly conducting airstrikes in Syria against positions of the Islamic State. While information about the fate of the two Russian pilots is still unclear, the NATO signals that it will defend Turkey’s southern flank. The incident occurs in a geopolitically sensitive moment when Russia and the West were in an approaching mode concerning the Syrian crisis.
Turkish jets have shot down a warplane believed to be a Russian-type SU-24 after it violated the Turkish air space. The two pilots were reportedly able to parachute out of the jet before it crashed. However, according to latest information the one pilot is dead, while the other is in custody.
According to Turkish news agency Anadolu, “the incident happened Tuesday near Turkey’s southern border with Syria, Turkish presidential sources said. The warplane went down near Syria’s northwestern Turkmeni town of Bayirbucak.
The Turkish General Staff said that the downed foreign jet was given 10 warnings in 5 minutes before being shot down by two F-16 fighter jets.
“A warplane of unknown nationality that breached Turkish airspace over Hatay’s [province] Yayladagi region at 9.20 a.m. [0720 GMT] was alerted 10 times in five minutes,” Turkish General Staff said in a statement, adding hat the F-16s’ response was in line with rules of engagement.
On October 5th, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had warned that Turkeyt would down foreign jets violating its airspace.
Earlier today a Turkish official said that “the shooting down of the fighter aircraft does not constitute action against a country, but it is a measure for the defense of Turkey’s territorial sovereignty in accordance with the rules of engagement.”
Russia denies the Turkish claims saying that the Fighter Bomber was in Syrian airspace but also the cause of the downing.
Russian Defense Ministry said that the plane was shot down most likely as a result form the ground with a ground-to-air missile.
“Today, as most likely a result of a strike from the ground an Su-24 plane from the Russian aviation group in the Syrian Arab Republic crashed in the territory of Syria.”
The Su-24 bomber jet was in Syrian airspace at the altitude 6,000 meters.
“The plane was located at an altitude of 6,000 meters [approximately 19,600 feet]. The fate of the pilots is being determined. According to the preliminary data, the pilots were able to eject. The circumstances of the plane’s crash are under investigation. The Russian Ministry of Defense notes that during the flight the plane stayed strictly within Syrian airspace and the flight was logged,” the statement read.
Russian media report citing “military sources” that the plane was 4 km inside Syria, near Latakia.
+++ Also Russian Helicopter shot down
According to media information, one of the pilots is dead, while the second is claimed to be in custody of Turkey-backed Turkmeni rebels in the Syrian village of Yamadi near Turkey-Syria border. Footage from the scene showed that the two pilots could be seen ejecting safely before the aircraft hit the ground in a huge of plume of smoke.
A video shows a what it seems to be a dead pilot and a crowd around him chanting “Allahu Akbar”. It is not clear whether it is the dead Russian pilot or the one who survived the crash. On the footage a rebel group that captured the pilot says that he was dead upon landing. However as the video is too graphic I will not upload it here.
Two Turkish residents were injured by falling debris from the downed Russian bomber, Τurkish Ulusal TV channel reported.
Nato is ready to send troops to Turkey to defend against threats on its southern flank, Jens Stoltenberg, the head of the alliance said following violations of Turkish airspace by Russian jets conducting airstrikes in Syria.
“Nato is ready and able to defend all allies, including Turkey against any threats,” Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general, told reporters before the Brussels meeting on Thursday.
“In Syria, we have seen a troubling escalation of Russian military activities. We will assess the latest developments and their implications for the security of the alliance. This is particularly relevant in view of the recent violations of Nato’s airspace by Russian aircraft.
“Nato has already responded by increasing our capacity, our ability, our preparedness to deploy forces including to the south, including in Turkey.”
“The NATO is reportedly monitoring the situation closely, in contact with the Turkish authorities” said an official at the headquarters of the Atlantic Alliance in Brussels. Later on Tuesday, at 06:00 pm a NATO diplomatic representatives extraordinary meeting will take place at the request of Turkey.
It is the first time since 1950 that the country – a member of NATO attacks and demolishes Russian goal, according to Reuters.
Moscow has been growing its military involvement in the Syria conflict, and Russian jets are involved in backing an offensive by ground troops loyal to the president, Bashar al-Assad.
President Vladimir Putin said
“the Warplane Incident in Syria to Have Serious Consequences for Turkey Ties.”
Unconfirmed information want that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cancelled his visit to Ankara scheduled for tomorrow Wednesday.
The Conspiracy Theory
Some mean people claim that by shooting down the Russian jet, Turkey created a “fait accompli” (an accomplished fact) in order to call in the NATO in the Syrian conflict thus preventing a Russian-EU approach on the issue.
Because if Turkey – and any country – was to shoot down jets violating its airspace, pilots’ deaths could be reported on daily basis. One has just to think of the Greek and Turkish F-16s involved in the famous “dog fights.”
One the other hand, if NATO decides to ‘defend’ its member Turkey’, Greece will not be able to reject participation, thus estranging itself from Russia. In addition the new situation could enforce the “Greek-Turkish joint patrols” in the Aegean as demanded by the EU and Germany in zero time.
Ankara has been always keen to call the NATO forces in its defense whether the threats were indeed serious to activate NATO Articles 4 and 5 or not. Turkey attempted already beginning of October to involve the NATO in the area. Also in the past, Ankara was trying to involve NATO in its internal conflict with the Kurdish PKK claiming the rebels were infiltrating the country and staging terrorists attacks coming from Iraq or Syria.
Furthermore, the same mean people make a connection between the latest moves of Ankara with regards to the Syrian refugees.
Human Rights Watch,reported yesterday, that Turkey is closing its borders to Syrian refugees sending them back to the war zone.
“Turkey has all but closed its borders to Syrian asylum seekers and is summarily pushing back Syrians detected as they try to cross. Syrians described Turkish border guards intercepting them at or near the border, in some cases beating them, and pushing them and dozens of others back into Syria or detaining and then summarily expelling them along with hundreds of others.”
This late moves have already affected the inflow of refugees to Europe with the number of refugees arriving to Greece (EU’s external borders) to have significantly decreased in the recent days.
PS The scenario could be realistic, if one tends to have faith in the higher atmosphere of conspiracy theories. Or not?