Tensions between Turkey and Russia are still running high two days after Turkish forces shot down a Russian bomber near the Syrian border. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he is planning economic sanctions against Turkey in response to the incident, while the surviving navigator of the plane maintains it never entered Turkish airspace — a claim Turkey has vehemently denied and attempted to contradict by releasing audio recordings of warnings that the plane's pilots allegedly ignored.
The Russian SU-24 bomber crashed into a Syrian mountainside on Tuesday after it was hit by a Turkish missile. Both pilots ejected from the aircraft. One was shot dead by Syrian rebels, and the other, Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, was rescued in a mission during which another Russian soldier was killed. It was the first time in half a century that a NATO member has shot down a Russian plane.
Turkey claims the plane ventured into its airspace for 17 seconds. Murakhtin contends that the plane received "no warning" via radio from Turkish forces, that he was very familiar with the region, and that the plane did not violate Turkish airspace "even for a single second."
On Thursday, the Turkish government released what they say are audio recordings containing Turkish military's repeated and increasingly agitated warnings to the pilots in the Russian jet.
"This is Turkish Air Force speaking on guard," a voice on the recording says in broken English. "You are approaching Turkish airspace. Change your heading south immediately." There's no response from the Russians on the tape, and it's unclear whether they ever received the message, or if Turkey chose not include their response when releasing the tapes to the public.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted that the decision to shoot down the plane was an "automatic response" that fell within the rules of engagement regarding the country's airspace. "Faced with the same violation today, Turkey would give the same response" Erdogan said. "It's the country that carried out the violation which should question itself."
Erdogan has engaged in a verbal standoff with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who described the incident as "a stab in the back," and said he expects an apology or an offer "to make up for the damages." Erdogan panned Putin's response as "emotional" and "unfitting," and accused Russia of opportunistically using its fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria to further its own political interests.
On Wednesday, airstrikes hit an aid convoy traveling from Turkey over the Syrian border, killing seven people. Turkish media reported that the strikes were carried out by Russia. Russian officials have not yet released a statement about the accusations. Video footage shared by a media group based in Aleppo showed trucks burning at the western edge of Azaz, a Syrian city about 10 miles south of Kilis in southern Turkey.
At a televised cabinet meeting on Thursday, Medvedev said he is planning economic sanctions against Turkey and hopes to have a draft of the proposal ready in the next couple of days. "The government has been ordered to work out a system of response measures to this act of aggression," the Russian prime minister said, adding that the focus of the sanctions would be on "limits or bans" on Turkish economic interests in Russia, and a "limitation of the supply" of products.
Medvedev also said that his proposal could also halt joint investment ventures, which he says were initially established on the "high level of trust" between the two nations. He says that tourism, trade, labor, and transport may also be affected.
Medvedev also alleged that Turkish officials were benefitting from the Islamic State's illicit oil sales. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was no secret that "terrorists" were using Turkish territory. "Shame on you," Erdogan said in response. "It's clear where Turkey buys its oil and gas."
"Those who claim we are buying oil from Daesh like this must prove their claims. Nobody can slander this country," Erdogan added, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. "If you are seeking the source of weaponry and financial power of Daesh, the first place to look is the Assad regime and countries that act with it."
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