President Vladimir Putin has said Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane near the Syrian border was a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists”.
The Russian warplane was shot down near the Syrian border for violating Turkish airspace on Tuesday, Turkish officials said.
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Turkish officials told Al Jazeera it was shot down by the Turkish military according to the rules of engagement, but Putin said the jet posed no threat.
“Today’s loss is linked to a stab in the back delivered to us by accomplices of terrorists. I cannot qualify what happened today as anything else,” Putin said in televised comments.
“Our plane was shot down over the territory of Syria by an air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16 jet. It fell in Syrian territory four kilometres from the border with Turkey. Our pilots and our plane did not in any way threaten Turkey.”
Reports said the plane, believed to be a Russian-made Sukhoi Su-24, crashed in Syrian territory in Latakia’s Yamadi village.
A Turkish military statement said the plane violated Turkish airspace in Hatay province and was warned “10 times in five minutes”.
“Our two F-16 planes on air patrol duty intervened … on November 24, 2015, 9:24am, according to the rules of engagement,” the statement said.
Rebel forces have told Al Jazeera that bodies of both pilots were recovered.
The deputy commander of a Turkmen brigade, located close to where the plane crashed, said the two Russian pilots were shot dead as they parachuted to the ground.
“Our comrades shot at them in the air and they were dead when they hit the ground,” he said. “They…died in the air.”
A Russian helicopter was also shot as it took part in the search for the two pilots near the Turkish-Syrian border, opposition groups in Syria said.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey had a duty to act against anyone violating its borders.
“Everyone must know that it is our international right and national duty to take any measure against whoever violates our air or land borders,” Davutoglu said in Ankara.
Turkey’s foreign ministry on Tuesday summoned representatives from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to brief them on the downing of the Russian fighter jet, a Turkish official said.
The Russian defence ministry was quoted by TASS Russian News Agency as saying: “A probe is in progress into the circumstances of the Russian plane crash.”
It said the plane had stayed within Syrian air space and that “objective monitoring data confirm this”.
Turkey’s Dogan news agency said witnesses reported that the warplane crashed over tents built in Yamadi village and that the pilots bailed out with the help of parachutes.
Davutoglu has ordered the foreign ministry to consult NATO, the UN and related countries on the developments, his office said in a statement on Tuesday.
Last month, Davutoglu said Russia had described its warplane’s violation of Turkey’s airspace as a “mistake”.
A Russian aircraft had entered Turkish airspace near the Syrian border, prompting Turkey to scramble two F-16 jets to intercept it and summon Russia’s ambassador in protest.
“The Turkish armed forces are clearly instructed. Even if it is a flying bird it will be intercepted,” Davutoglu said at the time.
He warned Turkey’s enemies and allies not to infringe on its airspace but he dismissed the notion of tensions with Russia.