Russia decided to arm its Su-34 fighter jets with air-to-air missiles for the first time in its mission to Syria, according to Igor Klimov, the spokesman for the Russian Air Force, reports RT.
Klimov said the Su-34 fighter jets are now armed with short and medium-range air-to-air missiles in addition to the high explosive aviation bombs and hollow bombs.
He emphasized that the Su-34 “planes are equipped with missiles for defensive purposes.” According to him, the missiles have “target-seeking devices” with the ability to hit targets at a distance of up to 60 kilometers (37.28 miles).
The move came after Turkey shot down Russia’s Su-24 fighter jet operating in Syria on November 24. The Turkish government claimed that the Russian fighter jet violated its airspace and ignored its repeated warnings regarding the violation.
On the other hand, the Russian Defense Ministry argued that the downed Su-24 fighter jet remained in the Syrian airspace during its entire flight.
Russia airstrikes in Syria
Since September 30, Russia has been conducting airstrikes targeting Islamic State (ISIL also known as ISIS or Daesh) and other terrorist groups in Syria. Its fighter jets have been carrying out missions from the Khmeimin Air Base in Latakia.
Russia intensified its airstrikes in Syria last month and specifically targeting the Islamic State terrorists, who claimed responsibility for the downing of the Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 in Egypt that killed 224 people onboard. On November 18, Russia conducted 59 sorties and hit 149 ISIL targets.
Yesterday, the Russian airstrikes killed at least 30 people in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border. A separate airstrike closer to the frontier with Turkey was also conducted on Thursday and hit a truck depot, destroyed ten trailers and killed five people after the downing of the Su-24 fighter jet.
Turkey will not apologize to Russia
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu said his government with not apologize to Russia for the downing the Su-24 fighter jet. He clarified they conducted a “defensive action” and wished that the incident never happened. He said Turkey has no intention to escalate the situation.
“Protection of our airspace, the land border is not only a right but a duty to my government and no Turkish Prime Minister or President or authority will apologize [for] doing our duty,” said Prime Minister Davuto?lu during a joint conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
It was reported that Russia was considering to suspend all military cooperation with Turkey indefinitely and to send its Moska missile cruiser close to the Turkish and Syrian coasts. Additionally, a Russian politician called for the cancelation of Russian flights to Turkey.
Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an to meet on the sidelines in Paris at the UN Climate Change Conference.
Prime Minister Davuto?lu also stated that he followed the news regarding Russia’s economic sanctions and other measures against his country. He is hoping for Russia to reconsider its measures. He said, “Economic relations are based on mutual interests. Any other new measures we will approach very calmly. We will not escalate the tension. We will never do anything, which will be seen negatively by Russian people.”
According to him, “If the Russian side wants to talk and wants to prevent any future unintentional event like this, we are ready to talk; if they want more information from us, we can give any information regarding the technical details of the incident; if they want to normalize relations, we are ready to talk.”
NATO will focus on de-escalating the tension between Russia and Turkey
Meanwhile, Stoltenberg said it’s the sovereign right of Turkey to defend its airspace and territorial integrity. He also welcomes the efforts of Turkey in establishing contact with Russia to de-escalate the situation. He also encouraged the Russian government to play a constructive role in Syria by targeting their common enemy—the ISIL.
Stoltenberg added that they would discuss the issue of strengthening and developing different mechanisms to de-escalate, reduce risks, and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future during the NATO Foreign Ministerial meeting tomorrow.
He said NATO is now focusing on de-escalating, calming the tension between Russia and Turkey.