Russia has denied that its Su-24 fighter jet that was shot down by Turkey on Tuesday along the Syrian border had not entered Turkish airspace, contrary to evidence provided by Turkish authorities.
The Russian jet had reportedly entered Turkish airspace over the southern border province of Hatay for a total of 17 seconds, despite being warned 10 times in five minutes before being downed.
"Following the violation, plane 1 left Turkish national airspace. Plane 2 was fired at while in Turkish national airspace by Turkish F-16s performing air combat patrolling in the area," Turkey’s UN Ambassador Halit Cevik said in a letter addressed to the 15-member UN Security Council and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday.
"Plane 2 crashed onto the Syria side of the Turkish-Syrian border," he added.
However, Russia denied the Russian plane entered Turkey. “Our fighter jet was on a combat mission in Northern Syria in very dense cloud conditions. When the aircraft was passing along the Turkish border, the onboard equipment set off an alarm indicating the plane was being targeted by some kind of air defense system,” Russia’s Commander-in-Chief Viktor Bondarev told Russian media.
“The pilot had to take a split-second decision to perform an anti-missile maneuver. Well, [the plane] went a little bit into Turkish airspace. We acknowledged it frankly,” Bondarev said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin described the incident as a “stab in the back” and warned Turkey of "serious consequences"
Russia has been carrying out air strikes in Syria since Sept. 30 in an effort to prop up the embattled regime of Bashar al Assad, under the guise that it is targeting the DAESH terrorist group.
However, Turkey and the US have raised concerns that the air strikes have been mainly targeting moderate Syrian opposition groups fighting against the Assad regime.
Among these moderate opposition groups include Turkmen brigades that are backed by Turkey in the Bayir-Bucak region of Syria’s coastal Latakia province, south of Turkey’s bordering Hatay province.
At least 5,000 Syrian Turkmen were forced to evacuate their villages and flee to the Syrian-Turkish border on Friday night following an intense three day aerial bombardment by Russia on their villages supported by ground assault of forces loyal to Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad.
The assault targeted at least 14 Turkmen villages, resulting in civilian casualties, according to various media accounts.
Russian fighter jets previously violated the Turkish airspace near Syrian border in early October during their bombing campaign.
At the time, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested the violation and summoned the Russian ambassador to convey its condemnation of the breach, according to a statement released on Oct.5.
Furthermore, the Russian ambassador was summoned by Ankara again following an alleged second violation by the Russian warplanes, which is yet to be clarified by the Moscow government.
Over four and a half years of fighting in Syria has left over 250,000 Syrians dead, according to UN estimates. More than 6.7 million are displaced internally while at least 5 million have fled the country to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.