Amid growing international concern about the potential outbreak of war between Turkey and Russia, a Russian airman has some troubling news about how his plane was shot down by Turkey.
According to RT the pilot, whose plane was shot out of the sky by Turkish jets on Tuesday, has told the press that there were no warnings from Turkey before the attack. Captain Konstantin Murakhtin told Russian television that he was flying in Syrian airspace and did not breach Turkish territory.
Russian warplane shot down by Turkish jets
Turkey claims that it issues multiple warnings to the pilots of the Russian Sukhoi Su-24 jet as it approached Turkish airspace. Officials have defended their right to shoot down foreign planes that ignore repeated warnings and enter Turkish airspace.
The incident has caused concern around the world given the fact that Turkey is a member of the NATO military alliance. Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the incident a “stab in the back,” but has so far not taken any decisive action as investigations are ongoing.
If the pilot is telling the truth it could have grave consequences for the relationship between Turkey and Russia, in addition to peace in the region. Captain Murakhtin was rescued by Syrian commandos on Wednesday during a 12 hour operation in rebel-held territory.
Surviving pilot denies receiving warnings from Turkey
He was interviewed at the Russian Hemeimeem air base in Syria, and told the Rossiya 1 channel: “It’s impossible that we violated their airspace even for a second. We were flying at an altitude of 6,000 meters in completely clear weather, and I had total control of our flight path throughout,” he said.
Murakhtin denied that he received any warnings from Turkish authorities. “In actual fact there were no warnings at all. Neither through the radio, nor visually, so we did not at any point adjust our course. You need to understand the difference in speed between a tactical bomber like Su-24, and that of the F16. If they wanted to warn us, they could have sat on our wing,” said Murakhtin.
According to the pilot, Turkey is to blame for an incident which could have far-reaching consequences. “As it was the missile hit the back of our plane out of nowhere. We didn’t even have time to make an evasive maneuver,” he continued.
The two pilots ejected following the strike, before Captain Sergey Rumyantsev was killed. A group of Turkmen rebels claim to have shot him dead as he drifted to the ground by parachute. Murakhtin was later rescued following a joint Russian-Syrian special forces operation during which one Russian Marine was killed.
Fallout from incident looks set to continue
A leaked letter from Turkey to the United Nations has been acquired by WikiLeaks. It reveals how the slow-moving Russian plane violated Turkish airspace for 17 seconds before Turkish jets shot it out of the sky.
The letter details how Turkish authorities sent 10 warnings over “emergency channels” in order to stop the Russian jet from passing into Turkish airspace. The incident could escalate if Russia decides that Turkey acted without warning.
The situation is complicated by the fact that Russia is Turkey’s second-largest trading partner, and relies on Moscow for 60% of its natural gas. Tensions have been simmering between the two nations, and it must be hoped that any potential conflict does not drag the rest of Turkey’s NATO allies into World War 3.