ISTANBUL – The Turkish Military has shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border, saying it violated Turkish airspace, a long-feared escalation that could further strain relations between Russia and the West.
The Russian Defense Ministry also asserted that, “The plane stayed exclusively above the territory of Syria throughout the entire flight,” and said that the two pilots had ejected.
The Turkish military did not identify the nationality of the plane but said in a statement on its website that its pilots fired only after repeated warnings to the other warplane.
“The aircraft entered Turkish airspace over the town of Yaylidag, in the southeastern Hatay province,” the statement read. “The plane was warned 10 times in the space of 5 minutes before it was taken down.”
The incident comes just a day before Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, is scheduled to travel to Turkey for what now promises to be tense discussions. The countries’ relations have been strained by the Kremlin’s intervention in Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad and against the rebels backed by Ankara.
Russia’s presidential spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said in Moscow on Tuesday that it was impossible to say how this would affect relations between the countries until the circumstances were more fully understood.
Russia’s entry into the heavily trafficked skies around Syria raised immediate concerns about mishaps, inadvertent or otherwise, that could lead to confrontations involving Turkey, a NATO member, and the United States. Turkey has warned Moscow about intrusions in its airspace at least two times since it began its bombing campaign in September and last week shot down an unmanned aerial device that analysts said was likely of Russian origin.
The Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, ordered the Foreign Ministry to consult with NATO and the United Nations over this episode, his office said in a statement, without elaborating.
Television footage shown on the privately owned Turkish channel Haberturk showed a warplane exploding in the air and tumbling down in flames in a wooded area, identified by the broadcaster as a region of northern Syria known to Turks as the Turkmen Mountains.
Another video published by the semiofficial news service Anadolu Agency showed two figures parachuting from the aircraft.