Turkish Military to Russian Jet: ‘You Are Approaching Turkish Airspace’
The Turkish military released audio recordings Wednesday that it claims verify Russian jets were warned again and again to leave Turkish airspace.
After Turkey shot down a Russian military jet for allegedly violating Turkish airspace this week, officials there claimed the Russian pilots were warned at least 10 times in five minutes before they were forced to shoot.
Now, the military has released a number of audio recordings attempting to prove that.
“This is Turkish Air Force speaking on guard. You are approaching Turkish airspace. Change your heading south immediately,” a voice can be heard saying in English on one of the clips. Foreign Policy was unable to independently verify the recordings.
Russian news agencies claim the one pilot who survived the crash has reported that he received no warnings before his jet was blown out of the sky, forcing him to parachute to safety. He was rescued after a 12-hour mission that resulted in the death of a Russian marine. His co-pilot was reportedly shot and killed before his parachute landed.
Tuesday’s deadly incident was the first reported time a NATO country has fired directly at the Russian military in Syria since Moscow launched an air campaign there in September, which is designed in large part to bolster embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It is also thought to be the first time a NATO member has shot down Russian aircraft in decades.
Ankara maintains it had no choice but to shoot down the plane, but Russian President Vladimir Putin called the crash a “stab in the back” and threatened “serious consequences.”
Any initial retaliation is likely to focus on economic measures. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that Turkish companies working in Russia would see their business take a hit due to the crash.
“Damage will be hard to repair, and its direct consequence might be the refusal from a number of important joint projects and Turkish companies’ loss of their positions on the Russian market,” he said in Moscow Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s allies and fellow NATO members, including the U.S., are eager to deescalate the rhetoric between the two countries to avoid harming the broader war against the Islamic State. On Wednesday. Secretary of State John Kerry called his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to offer condolences for “the loss of life” Tuesday. And NATO ordered an emergency meeting in Brussels to address the incident.
Washington and its allies have long been skeptical about Putin’s airstrike campaign, which he has publicly said was designed to target the Islamic State but has in reality repeatedly targeted U.S.-backed rebels fighting to oust Assad. Russian officials been unapologetic, deriding the rebels as terrorists, but Moscow has been hitting significantly more ISIS-linked targets since the militants used a smuggled bomb to down a Russian airliner over the Sinai, killing all 224 aboard.
U.S. calls for restraint and broader conciliatory efforts may not be enough to calm the situation. On Tuesday the Kremlin cut off military-to-military contact with Turkey and moved a missile cruiser to the Syrian coast to better protect its warplanes. From now on, Russian bombers will be accompanied by fighter planes when they fly over Syria.
The war of words, meanwhile, continued to escalate. On Wednesday, after a conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Lavrov said the shootdown may have been designed to aggravate Russia.
“We have serious doubts this was an unintended incident and believe this is a planned provocation,” Lavrov said.
Photo Credit: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images