Europe

'Turkey gave no warning' - downed Russian pilot

  • 25 November 2015
  • From the section Europe
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Media captionCapt Murakhtin spoke to Russian media outlets, who did not show his face

The surviving pilot of a Russian plane shot down by Turkey on the Syrian border has said no warning was given.

Capt Konstantin Murakhtin told Russian television there was "no way" the jet could have violated Turkish airspace, as Turkey said it did.

Russia said Capt Murakhtin was rescued from rebel-held territory in Syria in a 12-hour operation involving special forces.

Turkey says the pilots were warned 10 times before the plane was shot down.

It is not clear what happened to the body of his co-pilot, who was killed by gunfire as he parachuted from the burning plane.

Media captionIn the audio recording from the Turkish military, a voice can be heard repeatedly saying ''change your heading south immediately''

Capt Murakhtin was speaking from the Hmeymim airbase, where Russia's aircraft have been based in its Syrian campaign, and where he was taken after being rescued.

He said he knew the region he had been flying in "very well" and that the jet had not been in Turkish airspace "even for a second".

He added he wanted to go back to duty and stay at the airbase, saying "someone has to pay" for the death of the other pilot, Lt Col Oleg Peshkov.

Russia has been carrying out air strikes against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad since late September.

Media captionThe BBC's Jonathan Marcus examines the increasingly risky air war over Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Lt Col Peshkov would be posthumously awarded the Star of the Hero of Russia.

There are also to be state awards too for Capt Murakhtin and the marine who died during his rescue, Alexander Pozynich.


Analysis: Sarah Rainsford, BBC News, Moscow

Clearly furious, President Putin has threatened "serious consequences" after Turkey hit the Russian jet. But so far concrete measures have been limited.

Russia's foreign minister spent a fraught hour on the phone to his Turkish counterpart today, but his conclusion was critical: "We do not intend to go to war with Turkey," Sergei Lavrov assured the world.

Instead, ministries have been ordered to report back to the Kremlin on any projects involving Turkey, for a decision on possible sanctions. The future of a pipeline project could be in doubt and there have been calls for flights to Turkey to be suspended.

Meanwhile, tourists have been warned against travelling there for "security reasons". Last year, Turkey was the destination of choice for over three million Russian holidaymakers.

On the ground inside Syria the changes have been more immediate. A cruiser has been despatched to help bolster air defences around the Russian base. The sophisticated S400 anti-aircraft system is also being deployed and Russian planes will now be protected on bombing raids by fighter jets.

The message to Turkey and its allies is clear: Don't dare try it again.


Tensions have escalated between the two countries over the incident, and Russia has broken off military contacts with Turkey. The US, the EU and the UN have all appealed for calm.

President Putin has described the downing of the plane as a "stab in the back", and warned of serious consequences.

His Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the incident was a "planned provocation" but Russia did not want to wage war over the shooting, Reuters reports.

Media captionProtesters threw eggs and stones at the Turkish embassy in Moscow

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has defended the action, saying "everyone must respect the right of Turkey to protect its borders". He has said he does not want to escalate tensions further.

Turkey is a member of Nato. The alliance has backed Turkey's version of events, although it, too, is calling for "diplomacy and de-escalation" to resolve the situation.

Russian defence officials say the plane never entered Turkish territory, and that Turkish pilots made no attempt to communicate with the Russians before they fired.

The Turkish military has released an audio recording of what it says is a series of warnings to the Russian jet to change its course.

The Turkish General Staff put out a statement saying it had been in touch with Russian military attaches to explain the rules of engagement that led to the downing of the jet and that it had tried to rescue the pilots.

Russia has announced fighter jets will now escort its bombers during air strikes over Syria, and Moscow is sending out its most advanced anti-aircraft missile system, the S-400.

Russia and Turkey have found themselves on opposing sides in Syria's conflict, with Russia supporting President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey is a staunch critic.

Turkey is part of the US-led coalition against the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. US President Barack Obama says the coalition has carried out 8,000 strikes against IS since it began.


Heated Turkey-Russia rhetoric

While they talk of not wanting to escalate tensions, both Russia and Turkey had some harsh words for each other on Wednesday:

"We have serious doubts about this being an unpremeditated act, it really looks like a planned provocation" - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Turkey's downing of the jet.

"We should be honest here. Supporting someone who is practising state terror... if you confirm, if you approve violence or oppression you are [an] oppressor," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an apparent reference to Russia's support for Syria's President Assad.

"The problem is not the tragedy we witnessed yesterday. The problem is much deeper. We observe... that the current Turkish leadership over a significant number of years has been pursuing a deliberate policy of supporting the Islamicisation of their country," Russian President Vladimir Putin on Turkey.

"No-one can legitimise attacks on Turkmen in Syria using the pretext of fighting the Islamic State," Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu suggesting Russia is not being honest about its targets in Syria.